Confessions:Recovery In Progress
Updated: Apr 5, 2020
My name is Ryan, and I am a recovering evangelical.
I have spent my entire adult existence believing that the church who had brought me into the love of God was going to be the one I served until my last breath. It gave me an identity and rules for existing. My previous faith community told me where I stood within the church and the world, but more importantly before God.
The strict categories between sin and righteousness, belief and apostasy, grace and justice, were comforting. It was nice knowing where I stood and what it looked like to stand there. There was even a comfort in knowing that I was fooling everyone, including myself, into believing that I had mastered the righteous faith we all so deeply valued. On some level I knew that my heart and mind were none of those things, but faking it 'til I was making it was just a way of life. It was my life. Until it wasn't.
In our current cultural climate, or really any cultural climate, being the owner of a female body is difficult, to say the least. It is even more difficult in a chosen field that has been dominated by men for most of its history.
There are really two ways to deal with this --ignore it or fight it. I tried the ignore it option. That naturally lasted all of two minutes. I am just naturally more of a fighter, so I really had no chance in mastering the art of avoidance. With time, I became very good at arguing for myself. I became my own apologetic. I knew the historical arguments behind Bible passages used as attacks against me. I became far better at hiding snarky responses behind a smile and avoiding inappropriate, semi-illegal, questions asked by interview boards regarding my desire to get married and to have children.
I used to believe that these things didn't hurt. I used to believe that I had no hard feelings or ill will toward the people who said them or against those who made my journey difficult. Then I changed traditions. What I have come to realize now is that the scars of my previous experience aren't really scars. They are still wounds. They still color the way I interact in the world, the church, and in the presence of God. And I am faced with the reality of grief and deep sadness.
Grief is not an emotional state I deal with gracefully. I move from crying to anger and back again in the same conversation. My prayers are laments far more often than they are thanksgivings, and I am still not to the point where I open my Bible very often. That is the problem when shame meets the church right in the middle of preaching the Gospel--no one makes it out unharmed.
So, I walk into a beautiful building every Sunday that my work schedule allows. I stare at a stained glass window masterfully crafted to proclaim the promise of the resurrection. I walk forward and receive communion in a space where I am not condemned for being me, and it makes me hurt. It makes me ache and long for all the years I lost trying to play a game where hiding myself and making myself smaller was just the rule. But I am also scared--scared of what it means to live in a space where support rather than shame is offered to me as the corrective. I fight my need to seem perfect to those "in charge" of my future and work every day to be more human and myself than I have ever had permission or space to do.
I do not know what the hell I am doing, where I stand, or how to not be a pawn in a game I do not own. I am scared, and hurt, and grieving, and holding onto hope that there is a future for me, here, serving the people of God who gather together and seek the same thing I am currently seeking--the undeniable reality of their worthiness, the possibility of wholeness, and grace upon grace upon grace.