Thank You For Rejecting Me
Leaving church impacted my life in so many ways. In the early days, the loss of my spiritual community was what pained me the most. Being as involved as I was in the daily operations of my church meant a constant stream of texts messages, phone calls, emails and meetings.
With the exception of a few souls charged with contacting me to encourage my return, those text messages, phone calls and emails went completely silent. In that expansive space of time in my day that used to be filled with busyness, I found the disconnection and emptiness unsettling.
What I didn’t know at the time was those first few days — when my life felt so foreign to me — were my first steps into the spiritual wilderness. I’ve written often about the spiritual wilderness because I understand its lack of support and structure can rattle even the most determined and focused soul in their quest to deconstruct.
Like so many people beginning their deconstruction journey, I had no idea what would happen next. I just knew the well-being of my mind, heart and soul were at risk if I stayed where I was. Looking back on the entire process, there were plenty of clues that I was heading in that direction. For years, I had actively, but secretly, been reading sacred texts from other world religions and learning from mystics and scholars whose experience and knowledge introduced alternative Christian theologies. The late Bishop John Shelby Spong had perhaps the greatest influence on me during this season of covert spiritual seeking, and to this day, I often reference his work.
It isn’t uncommon to receive a dozen or so questions each week from followers about the spiritual wilderness when nothing looks or feels the same. This is indeed the reality, and it is a paradox because how can a path that you have chosen feel so foreign and unrecognizable? Having been on this deconstruction journey for well over 10 years now, I have gained wisdom from entering and coming out the other side of this period of “unknowing” with clarity, peace and purpose. Reading this should be encouraging to those just beginning their own journey, although I understand that it isn’t enough to assuage their confusion, and yes, even fear, as they take their first steps.
Telling my story to help others
When I began to tell my story about my religious experiences and deconstruction journey, I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming response from people sharing their own stories. The emails, DM’s and comments began to pour in as one soul after another found the crack of light from their own pain and reached out to connect to the safe space I was offering. In hindsight, I now see that I was preparing for this healing and sacred virtual community by clearing the way for its arrival.
I’ll be the first to admit that it wasn’t easy. The first few months were especially hard, when I would find myself crying because I felt so lost and lonely with no one who could relate to what I was going through.
I realized that I was dealing with more than just the loss of friendship and my long-held spirituality, I was coping with rejection. It came to me one day as I sat with a wise mentor who foretold a time when I would be helping people do exactly what I was in the midst of doing.
“The truth will set you free — but first it’ll piss you off”
Those wise words were uttered to Ted Lasso by Dr. Sharon Fieldstone, the team’s therapist during a scene in Ted Lasso where he comes face to face with his own season of healing. I can tell you that this is indeed true.
I’ve said this often but it warrants repeating it here — the spiritual wilderness can be hard work. Or rather, it should be hard work. Some of the most challenging was peeling away all the layers of my religious indoctrination to discover who I really was outside the construct of my religious heritage.
Looking back on those sessions with my mentor, I know she was offering me encouragement when she said I would help others. However, I couldn’t really grasp what she meant, because I was intently focused on my healing and couldn’t fathom who or what I would become.
The rejection I faced was actually the catalyst that led me to confront all the unacknowledged trauma from my past. Never before had I considered that when I had been told I had a doubter’s mind or a spirit of offense, or had been considered inferior because I was a woman or didn’t carry the last name that everyone in the church’s inner circle carried, or when someone with less qualifications was chosen for a leadership role because they would be blindly obedient and not challenge church leadership even when they were clearly wrong, or all of those “friends” who now never called because I had left church, or being told that I was ill-prepared to be a minister, or….or….or….
The list could go on forever, and in my head it did. Rejection inside my Christian heritage held the keys to the wounds of my inner child that needed to be recognized and unlocked. The reality that I had not unpacked the pain of my parents’ divorce, when I often felt unseen and unloved, hit me hard. Those moments came flooding back with just as much fervor as the day they happened, so many years ago.
This is when the truth did set me free — but first it sorely pissed me off.
Turning rejection into gratitude
It didn’t happen overnight, but little by little I began to see the light at the end of my tunnel. Now, years later, I return to those words of my mentor who spoke of this time when we would meet in these spaces. Spaces that are made sacred by our shared experiences and healing journeys.
We cannot change our past, but we can change how it affects us moving forward. Instead of hindering us, it can launch us into our lives with passion, grace and yes, even gratitude.
From that place, we know that the hard work we have done inside the spiritual wilderness has truly mended us back together — mind, heart and soul.
So what of you, on this day when everything feels foreign, cold and lonely? What of you if the path is overgrown and there is no light to be seen? What will you find in the pockets of the wounds you carry that have been ignored for so long?
What of you?
Well, Beautiful Soul, the truth will set you free — but first it’ll piss you off.
It isn’t profound I know — but it is indeed Holy.
May this be where you find what you need to set you free.