Once you have seen, you can't unsee

When most people get fired it means they have lost their job. It can be painful. It can be a relief. And it is often the catalyst to explore something new. Most people have friends and family and maybe even a faith community to support them in that process. When a pastor gets fired, his whole family also gets fired. Whatever roles or positions they had in the community end. And even more difficult, all those relationships that have been significant in their lives also change. Financial security, identity, community, it’s all gone.

 Photo credit: Adam Morse

Photo credit: Adam Morse

When my husband got fired it was about as messy as these things can be. At the end of a very painful mediation with the church board, as we said our final goodbyes, one of the elders gave me a stiff hug and whispered in my ear, “I love you, I just don’t get you.” The words summed up everything. Good Christians have to love one another. Although how that actually is lived out is often very conditional. I never heard from that man again so I can only assume the shallow depths of that professed love. We never heard from most people in that community. After fifteen years of experiencing all the ups and downs in each others lives, it was as if we had never been there at all.

But the comment, “I just don’t get you.” was the real message that was delivered. It was the final jab from a bitter man. It stayed with me for years. It launched me on a journey to discover what I now consider my spiritual emancipation. It raised the question for me, "How could he get me?" I was playing a part that I thought I needed to play to be accepted and ensure my husband’s job security. Clearly, it didn't work. 

Eight years later, on this side of the crisis, I shudder to think of who I would be if I had not been set free from what I now see as a toxic and abusive situation. My husband getting fired was the permission slip I needed to rethink my values and beliefs and how I was living them. In order for anyone to ‘get me’ I needed to ‘get me’. And that journey was a long and lonely spiritual crisis.

A spiritual crisis occurs when you experience a drastic change to your meaning system. This could be your purpose, goals, values, attitude and beliefs, identity, and/or focus. This often occurs through an awakening to a new or deeper understanding of the world around you.

Once I was free of having to play a role in the church I had the freedom to do some deep work. I could go to church or not for the first time in my adult life. I started reading books written by other women who had been on a similar journey. I started to see a similarity in our stories.

The basic pattern usually includes:

  • ignoring or downplaying the things you question or don’t agree with
  • believing that unity is a higher value than what you believe
  • believing that someone in authority knows better than you do
  • an inciting incident happens and you awaken to see things as they truly are and question the above.

I’ve spent most of the last decade sorting out how to reclaim a vibrant and healthy spirituality. It is possible. It’s about coming back to yourself and embracing who you are, facing your fears, forgiving yourself and others, establishing healthy boundaries, and more. For women there is usually a need to understand patriarchy and how that has been a major factor in your life. It’s sacred work. And it is so worth it. You definitely can’t go back. As Rob Bell says, “Once you have seen, you can’t unsee.” You can go forward though. 

In the next month I'll be writing daily on this topic. I’ve created a list of some of the memoirs that have helped me understand this journey. If you would like to read it you can download it here.