Even though I grew up in a conservative Christian faith community, my father was a science professor and a bit unorthodox. He taught me to question things and think for myself. With that upbringing, you’d think I would be quite confident and easily claim my own authority. But that was not the case. Somewhere along the way, I bought into the idea that I had to prove my worth—to my parents, church leaders, teachers, and especially God. This constant “hustle for my worthiness” (as Brené Brown calls it) was exhausting and always left me feeling like I wasn’t enough. It also set me up for decades of depression.
I don’t know about your experience, but it seems to me that most churches teach with absolutes—either/or, black-and-white thinking. It’s what I heard a lot of while growing up. This type of all-or-nothing thinking is called binary thinking because there are only two choices. You’re either good or bad, obedient or rebellious, happy or sad. As I’ve talked to people who wrestle with their faith, binary thinking is almost always a part of the struggle. But binary thinking is rigid and judgmental, both of which are harmful when you struggle with your spiritual identity or faith.
Feeling abandoned by God
Have you experienced God’s silence? Or felt like God didn’t care about you? I have and it’s one of the worst feelings in the world. Here’s what happened—although my depression varied from mild to severe, there was one particularly dark time, about 5 years ago, when I hit rock bottom. It was so bad that I had to look for reasons to stay alive. I begged God to just let me know that I mattered . . . and the heavens were silent.
I felt abandoned by God and completely alone. It was, as they say, “a dark night of the soul.” And it was a turning point in my life–all my faith and beliefs came crashing down. Suddenly, I could no longer trust God or anything I had been taught in church. And feeling betrayed left me bitter and angry. I was angry at God, angry at my church, angry at what I felt were lies I’d been told all my life. If you’ve ever felt deep hurt, you might understand how this anger and abandonment left me feeling like there was a hard, impenetrable stone inside of me.
Healing happened, but not overnight. I hate to say it, because I don’t want to discourage anyone, but it took me years. I read a lot on spirituality, studied other religions, and luckily had a husband and a few friends who supported me. As healing came, I realized that impenetrable stone was a seed—a seed of change. I began to soften and the seed began to germinate.
Claiming your own spiritual authority
In my discussions with people wrestling with a faith crisis, I’ve been honored to hear many stories. There are as many different reasons that cause a person’s shelf to crash as there are different people. But despite the differences, there are common feelings of pain, sorrow, shame, guilt, anger, and resentment. Part of my healing came from recognizing (at 45 years old!) that I am a good person. It’s taken me a long time to get there, but it was a turning point in my life. My relationship with God and my church has evolved. In the past, when I had questions, I turned to church leaders for answers. Now, as I’ve claimed my own spiritual authority I’ve begun to search for answers on my own. I’m learning to trust the way God works with me.
My feelings about God have fluctuated. For a while I thought I might not believe in God at all. I considered that maybe I was simply agnostic. But on this journey, I have broken out of the limited concepts of God that I grew up with and am finding God, or the Divine, to be so much more than I ever imagined. And I have learned to embrace uncertainty and accept the mystery of life.
You are not alone
As a spiritual life coach, I am here to walk with you on this path in whatever capacity you might need—I want to create space for your fears and doubts and sorrows, and I will honor your experiences. I am not here to tell you what your spiritual journey should look like or what the answers are. The answers are between you and the Divine. But I want you to know you are not alone. I believe in your ability to grow. I am here to help you find peace, acceptance, clarity, and understanding.