As I’ve written the story of my journey, I’ve had lots of people email me and PM me on Facebook. They’ve been able to identify with me on many of the topics I’ve written about. Today, I want to encourage those that have reached out to me as well as those that haven’t, but maybe you’ve also read part of your story within my own.
I can’t begin to describe the overwhelming wave of emotions that are involved when you find yourself on a rollercoaster of a spiritual journey! Maybe this isn’t a fair assessment to make, but it seems to me that most people won’t ever find themselves questioning their faith – at least not to the degree at which I did. I find that most folks are content to chill in the raft of their upbringing on the Lazy River of mainstream Christianity. To be honest, I often find myself wishing I could just go back in time, sit in my own raft, and sip on a pina colada. On the other hand, I’m so grateful for what I’m experiencing.
If you find yourself questioning the status quo, be encouraged! You’re not alone. In fact, I’ve come to discover whole communities of people that have done the same, walked where you’re walking, and learned/unlearned what you have. If you’re reading this now, you’ve obviously found someone that fits that criteria, and just to show you know you’re not alone, I’ll share some of my emotional experiences and advice with you.
Before you begin…
If you’re married or have a significant other, talk to that person about your intentions! Going at this alone isn’t a good idea, but more than that, it’s not really fair to just go at something like this without fair warning. No matter how much you prepare, I can assure you that this journey will get a lot messier than you ever expected it would! If your partner isn’t aware of your intentions, that mess is going to pile up fast, and it’s only going to create a barricade between you. Not cool. I was upfront with my wife, Lindsey, from the beginning. That doesn’t mean my journey was a whole lot easier for her to handle/understand, but at least she wasn’t completely blindsided. Plus, if you go on the journey together, it will hopefully allow you to grow in your understanding and your relationship together.
Take some time to clear your mind. I don’t know what that looks like for you, but perhaps it’s prayer, yoga, exercise, meditation, listening to classical music, or whatever. In any case, know that you’re only going to be able to go as far as you allow yourself to go. To do that, it’s best to approach this journey with an open and teachable mind. Otherwise, you’re just going to get frustrated and quit. If you begin by bringing all of your predispositions and beliefs along with you, you won’t get far. So, take some time and empty your mind of whatever you’re willing to give up.
To start with…
I guess it depends if you’re the kind of person who likes to ease into the swimming pool, or just get it over with and jump in quickly. For me, easing in just creates more torture by prolonging the inevitable. I prefer jumping in all at once and getting the shock over with. But since not all people like taking the same approach as I do, I’ll give some recommendations for both options.
I began by watching lots of documentaries on the subjects that interested me. That was followed by/in conjunction with watching or listening to experts in their respective fields discussing said subjects. This approach is the quickest way I learn. I’m a visual and hands-on learner, so I can quickly grasp something when it’s presented in this manner.
After I watched or heard about all I could find, I then turned to online articles. I discovered people that I hadn’t ever heard of before writing on topics I was just beginning to learn about. That was awesome because their blogs also had communities of folks leaving their two cents in the comment sections. I was able to ask questions and get feedback rather quickly. That also led me to finding some of these authors on Facebook and connecting with them directly. Gold mine!
The bloggers and their followers were also helpful in pointing me to book authors. To date, I have a list of about 10 books that I highly recommend to every single person on a similar journey as mine. I’ll list the books at the end of this post.
The slower approach:
Really it’s up to you, but I think all of the options I listed above are great to use. You’ll obviously want to apply them in the order that best suites your tastes. If you’re an avid reader, start with the books I list at the end of this post. If you like ending your day watching Netflix in bed, maybe you’ll binge watch some documentaries. If you get free time at work, Googling some of the topics/blogs written toward your interests could be enjoyable.
Whatever your decision, I recommend a steady approach. Not only will you be able to retain more of the information, but if you’re not single, it will also allow you to communicate your progress better with your partner.
Awe and wonder, shock and amazement, and fear of divorce are all some of the emotions and thought processes that ran through my mind. I was wonderstruck by so many of the incredible scientific things I was learning, dumbfounded by some of the teachings I learned growing up (and even more so by what I hadn’t ever learned), and terrified that Lindsey was going to leave me for fear that I was becoming an atheist – again, I’m not.
I’m pretty certain that Lindsey’s emotional joyride was worse than mine was, but what she didn’t understand was a lot of what I was learning was definitely terrifying for me! It’s not an easy thing to do to let go of the safety net you’ve known your entire life! It’s not easy to abandon the comforts of spiritual rebuttals you’ve learned over the years. It’s admittedly an extremely vulnerable place to be when you lay down those defenses. Had I not grown up with any sort of religious background it may have been a slightly easier pill to swallow. Nevertheless, it’s not as simple as it sounds.
There isn’t one. What I’ve discovered is that every single person is continuously learning if they choose to do so. I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but I’ve been able to learn more about myself and what I’ve chosen to believe – more importantly than knowing what I believe is knowing why I believe this way. I no longer have to rely on handpicked verses and teachings passed around Christian communities for my dogmatic beliefs. The continual revelation and growth available is limitless – that is to say, I know now that I can always be a student and choose to learn.
There is at least a bit of a resolve when you come to the plateau. It’s not the resolution that you’re somehow now all-knowing, but rather you’re able to approach your continued learning process with the correct tools in hand.
Please remember that every person is on their own path – their own journey. You’re probably not fully aware of what that person has learned along the way to lead them to the understanding or beliefs that they now possess. For instance, if someone were to assume that I were ignorant on a particular topic that I’ve heavily researched along the way, making a snap judgement about it wouldn’t likely change my perspective; it would, however, probably usher in hurt. It’s totally possible that you’re able to recognize the place that someone is in along their journey, but if they haven’t asked you for your input, it could be harmful for you to give it.
Instead of being quick to point out what you perceive to be incorrect, you could inquire of that person what brought them to that conclusion. Perhaps you’ll learn something along the way.
As John Pavlovitz often reminds me, “What you’ve learned, the journey you’re on is your own. It’s your testimony, and it’s not up for debate.”
Remember that as you move forward in your own journey. Also, don’t forget to contact me to share your story, ask questions, and find a friend! I love hearing from you and sharing in your experiences.
Below is some reading material. I haven’t made it through all of these yet, but I at least know the material covered, and I can vouch for that. I’ve listed them in the order that I recommend reading them. To each their own. Hint: take a trip to your local community library to see if they have any of the books available or could possibly inter-library loan them from a nearby community. Owning them is totally worth it too:
1. Pagan Christianity
2. The Untold Story of the New Testament Church
3. Reimagining Church
4. The Irresistible Revolution
5. Jesus For President
6. Red Letter Revolution
7. What The Bible Really Teaches (This one is deep, and he’s so freaking smart it can be difficult to follow him, but worth trying!)
9. 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess
10. Love Wins