I frequently refer to my transition out of institutional Christianity as a path, or a journey. A lot of people who follow this here blog are going down similar paths. But paths don’t simply lead away from something–they lead toward something (or at least, they should). Ultimately, this path should lead toward healing.
This post might easily turn into a series of posts, because there’s a lot that can be said about this topic, from a wide range of perspectives. But I’m just going to start by sharing some general and personal thoughts about my own path, and see where this “path” leads. 🙂
When I first began blogging, much of the pain and injustice of recent years was still looming large in the rear-view mirror. So naturally, I focused a lot of attention backward rather than forward. At that time, mine was mostly a path away from things I felt were harmful, hurtful and unnecessary. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself; in fact, I think there is a season where you have to process where you’ve been in order to understand where you’re going. But the point is–it’s a season. There’s a time and place for looking back and learning from the past, as long as we don’t dwell in it indefinitely. So for me, the time I’ve spent focusing on the ills of the institutional church has not been a poor use of time; it was necessary to that part of my journey, a way of “reconciling the books” before moving forward, so to speak.
But we just can’t make camp there forever. We can’t have a healthy spirituality if its entirely based on what we are against. We have to be for something, and moving in a direction toward that. And so if we are truly processing pain and moving toward healing, eventually we look back less, and look forward more.
And that’s what I see happening in my own soul. I am less and less focused on pointing out what’s wrong with the church, and more and more focused on what I can do differently, to live a better way. I spend less and less time thinking about what went wrong in this or that situation, with this or that person, and more time looking at what is in front of me and how I can make the most of it. This is how I know I’m experiencing healing from the past.
Now, I still process pain. Sometimes a memory will come up, and if I stay in that moment, I will still feel the pain, anger, hurt, etc. Sometimes I still even rehearse in my mind what I would have said/done differently. I think everyone does that, to an extent. I know there are some who would say that’s not healthy, or that this is a sign of ongoing bitterness, but I don’t know that this is one hundred percent true (although it might be true for some). For me, I have some mixed feelings about that, because I don’t feel like I live in bitterness, but I also don’t feel like we should just ignore or suppress pain. For me, at least, it seems this is how I process pain. So what it looks like for is that I will stay in that moment for a time, remember the hurt, embrace it, maybe even get angry for a few minutes–and eventually I’ll get tired of it, realize it’s futile, lay it down and move on. I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do (and I wouldn’t necessarily prescribe it)–all I know is that it’s happening less and less. It’s like if I allow myself to go through those moments and move past them, I find a waning need to continue reliving those moments.
But I think the key is moving past them. The key is not to stop and camp, or even to avoid, but to move through. I think a lot of people get hung up by staying in that place for too long, and I know people who have allowed themselves to get bitter by dwelling in the past. Processing pain and moving toward healing certainly isn’t an exact science. But I think that for me, I have always had healing as the goal–never justice or vengeance. And I think that keeps me moving forward when it would be easy to get fixated on that junk in the rear-view mirror.
And so, now that I’ve had a few years to process all this, I’m finding myself far more inspired and motivated by the possibilities in front of me than by the stuff that’s behind me. The path toward healing is getting brighter by the day. It feels good–kind of like the warm sunshine on your skin when you’ve spent time in a chilly room.
And yes–this will be a series of posts. I did a lot of generalizing here, but I think there are lots of specific things to talk about.