unraveling: it’s a lot to lose.

kathyescobar church stuff, faith shifts 16 Comments

For the past 3 days, I’ve touched on Fusing, Shifting, and Returning as some of the movements of a lot of our faith experiences. Whew! There’s no question, I am definitely a once, maybe twice a week max blogger. But since I’m taking the summer off in a few days I really wanted to get this series up (and a few other thoughts this week, too) before I am off until September 1st. Even though I appreciate the first 3 movements in the material and know that they are a part of story, the next 3 are the ones I’m most passionate about creating a space for and were the catalyst for the book in the first place.

While Shifting is the season where things get rumbly, Unraveling is beyond just simple doubts and is when so much of what we used to believe and do as part of “church” falls apart and and we begin a downward decent that can make us feel crazy (and people around us feel worried).

Our values shift from certainty, conformity and affiliation to a deep desire for autonomy, authenticity, and uncertainty.

From Faith Shift: “Here’s how you can know if you’re Unraveling. You may not identify with all of these, but consider the ones you recognize (or others you might add):

  •  You have more than a few “I don’t knows.” Almost anything related to faith feels up for grabs, and your initial questions and doubts keep leading to many more questions and doubts.
  • You long to feel some kind of connection to God again, but no matter what you do or try, nothing comes.
  • Often you wish you could shove all the mess back into a box and put the lid on it, but you realize it’s too late for that.
  • You feel depressed and lonely. Ironically, however, you also feel freer and lighter.
  • When you try to connect with the Bible again, you sometimes see only its inconsistencies and harsh words.
  • Not only do you feel heretical, people have called you that (sometimes to your face, sometimes behind your back).
  • Sitting in church feels impossible. When you do go, you feel unnerved, edgy, uncomfortable, angry, or sad.
  • You may talk trash about your former faith or church community, but you actually miss a lot of things about it too.
  • Many who know about your changes have cut off relationship with you. It seems they wanted to be with you only when you were part of the same team, believed the same things, and were tasked with the same cause.
  • You stopped caring what people from your former faith system think about you but can’t help wondering what God thinks.
  • You feel a lot of anger about the past, wondering how everything could actually end up in ruins after all those years of being dedicated to your faith. You usually direct this anger toward yourself, others, and/or God.
  • You are open to exploring other faiths or spiritual practices that you would have once considered “ungodly.”
  • Sometimes you don’t have any adequate words to describe what you’re feeling.
  • You swing between spurts of peace, where you have a deep sense of knowing you’ll be okay no matter what, and jags of utter confusion and doubt, where you feel completely lost and sure that you’re not just slipping off the slope but headed toward destruction.
  • Religious and spiritual songs that used to bring comfort now feel like fingernails on a chalkboard.
  • Calling yourself “Christian” feels dishonest. You actually have no idea how to categorize yourself anymore.
  • [For those still in a ministry or leadership position] If you’re honest about what you’re experiencing, you will lose your job or role and credibility in a flash” (pp. 66-67).

Not everyone reading has unraveled, but I can almost guarantee you know someone who has or is.

The entire middle third of Faith Shift is dedicated to Unraveling, including Soul Care exercises, the realities of the losses, and stories from others who know the feeling. If you or someone you know is in the midst of all this, it could be a really helpful tool to gather some hope and feel less crazy, less alone in the midst of all of it.

Really, Unraveling is a big messy grieving process.

It’s so much to lose!

When we lose beliefs, then we lose structures and relationships that were part of those structures.  Once those things go and we find ourselves on the outside of everything that was once familiar, we can often lose our identity, too.

I’ll say it again: It’s so much to lose! 

In many ways, Unraveling is like a game of spiritual Jenga and we wonder, “If I take out this piece, is the whole Christian tower going to fall? Will losing this piece end the game entirely? How far can I go before my whole faith crumbles? ” (p. 68).

The other part about Unraveling I want to mention is how lonely and confusing it is. So many people don’t understand, don’t like the realities, want us to “come back.”

The reality is that for most of us, there’s no turning back. Unraveling is past an easy return, and that’s one of the hardest parts.

However, there can be new life, new hope on the other side of a painful unravel.  It just takes a long long time (more about Rebuilding on Tuesday).

What have you lost in your Unraveling? 


Tomorrow–Severing: Some Do, Some Don’t