When Life Gives You Deconstruction: The Church and Loving Thy Neighbor

Something that always rubbed me the wrong way while I was involved with church was this idea that the church should only serve its community in order to “convert” non-believers or get people into the seats on Sunday morning. This always felt so gross and manipulative. Jesus freely gave to those in need and told us to do the same with no strings attached. He didn’t pitch them the next teaching series at Temple.

I am not great at volunteering my time, in general. I do so on occasion, but I usually donate money. We all play our parts, right? There are a few occasions I can remember wanting to organize some kind of event to serve our local community. I don’t remember what I wanted to do, exactly, but I do remember talking to the pastor about it.

He said something like, “Ok, great. What’s the end goal? Are we going to give them some literature or invite them to a specific service?”

I was surprised because I hadn’t even thought about that. I said, “Well, no. I thought we could just have this event and serve our community in this way.”

He pretty much said that the church wouldn’t sponsor an event without some kind of call to action. We had to talk to them about God, have some kind of alter call, offer to pray with them, or invite them to a service. I was so disappointed. It felt gross, honestly.

Why couldn’t we just serve and love our neighbors without proselytizing to them? Aren’t we supposed to show God’s love by our actions and not by how hard we try to sell them on it? Also, why are we assuming that people who are in need don’t already have a relationship with God? Do we inherently think that if you’re poor or have fallen on hard times, then you clearly don’t know Jesus because otherwise you wouldn’t be struggling?

These are some of the questions I had and still have. This is all so problematic. The more I learn about inherent bias, colonialism, and racism, the more problematic this all starts to look to me. I’ve always felt that if we are good at loving people, which is what we are commanded to do, then the fruit of our love will bring people to know Jesus better. Sales tactics, manipulation, coercion, and control do not produce good fruit. They never have – and today’s evangelical church is living proof of that.

I remember that we had a series that lasted several weeks just on how to invite people to church. We were encouraged (guilted? shamed?) and coached (indoctrinated?) on how to get people to come to church with us. As if the only way people will be able to experience God is within the walls of a church. And to be really clear, I didn’t go to a fundamentalist church like a Southern Baptist or Mormon/LDS church. I went to a non-denominational evangelical church. They play modern worship music and wear jeans and football jerseys on Sundays.

Wolves in sheep’s clothing? Some would say so. I think that until the Church takes full responsibility for the harm it’s done, this will remain true. The fruit will continue to be rotten. Until the Church owns its gross misrepresentation of God and Her true nature, it will continue to push people away from church. And maybe that’s exactly what needs to happen. Burn it all down and rebuild something anchored in love for Her people.

When Life Gives You Deconstruction: The Church vs. the Other

When Life Gives You Deconstruction: The Church vs. the Other
Photo by Ricardo Esquivel on Pexels.com

*TW: Spiritual Abuse

This past weekend, I attended an online Sunday service, of sorts. It was put on by someone in the faith community whom I trust very much and it took place with a small group in his home. He’s familiar with the deconstructing process and has had to do quite a bit of deconstructing on his own. I’ve been able to follow his journey on social media, so I felt really safe observing.

The conversation was very open during this service. Anyone could chime in with thoughts or questions. It was very open and lovely. There was no “lesson” or agenda, really. They read from John 10 and then shared what it made them think of or how it made them feel. Part of the discussion led to a conversation around “otherness” and how the church has excluded certain groups of people from God’s love, even though Jesus says quite the opposite about how we come into Her love.

This reminded me of many instances where I was looked at as “other” within my church during my time there. One that really stuck out was when a group of friends and I got together and decided to start a little Bible study at someone’s house. These were not friends I currently went to church with but these were people I did a lot of my day-to-day life with. It was a nice way to spend time together while learning about God and Her nature.

At the time, I was considered a part of “informal” leadership at my church because I was on the worship team. Something to note, I could never be considered a formal leader within that church because I am a woman. Apparently women are not allowed to lead men. I was only made aware of this “small” detail because the conversation came up amongst a small group of us at some church event. I was honestly shocked, and super pissed, because I had never been told this explicitly before and thought my church was rather progressive (ha!).

While at church one morning, I had mentioned this really great group of people I was gathering with once a week to worship with and study God’s word with. To my surprise, my worship leader warned me about small group gatherings outside the umbrella of a church with an established theology. He said that I could get into “trouble” of sorts because without a church overseeing what was being taught, we could be at risk for false teachings. In the church, “false teachings” are a great scare tactic to keep people from trusting their own discernment and keep the church in control. It was the mose bizarre thing I had every heard. The original church started in the homes of fellow believers; small communities of people who opened their homes to one another in love.

Something I’ve learned about the church over the years is that it is afraid of free-thinkers and those who do not follow the formula. Something I’ve learned about God’s nature is that She does not perscribe to nor require a formula for Her love.

Needless to say, I never brought up the home group at church again. I thought the concern and warning were hot garbage. Also, I hate being told what to do. Fuck off with that. No one ever mentioned it to me again, and I certainly wasn’t brought into any intervention with church leadership. But, if you’re familiar with my story, then you know that my time would come soon enough.

When Life Gives You Deconstruction: Thoughts Around Christmas

When Life Gives You Deconstruction: Thoughts Around Christmas

*TW: Spiritual abuse

*Note: Only respectful comments will be allowed and responded to. Telling someone who is deconstructing that “not all Christians/Churches” are like that, is invalidating to that person’s experience. It is not helpful or respectful.

Here’s the truth: the holidays are hard for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons. We struggle because of loss, Seasonal Affective Disorder, this Goddam Pandemic™ (going on two years strong), loneliness, estrangement (either by choice or not), and a million other reasons.

In the week leading up to Christmas, I’ve known 2 people to die from COVID-19. One person close to my family and her death will have a lasting impact on people whom I love very much. Another was someone my age, whom I’ve known most of my life. My heart aches over these people and their families. Wear your mask. Get vaccinated if you can. These losses have made Christmas extra hard this year.

On top of tragic loss and these expectations of magic and memories we put on ourselves, I’ve been deconstructing my faith. This has made Christmas feel very different this year. I know millions of people celebrate Christmas without any tie to faith at all. And that’s fine. Some use it to celebrate the origin of the Yule holiday, honoring the winter solstice and this time of change on earth. For me, I connect Christmas to the birth of Jesus. I know Jesus wasn’t actually born on December 25th and I know the traditions we have today around Christmas were based on Yule to help easily convert pagans to Christianity. Nevertheless, here I am, celebrating the birth of Jesus on December 25th.

My deconstruction journey started long before this Christmas season. The seeds were probably planted from the beginning, but my decision to really start to examine my faith came from what spurs most people to deconstruct from the church: Church Hurt. This is a story I’ve only told a few people I’m close with because I had so much hurt around it. There was shame for a while too, but that’s gone now. Shame is not an effective way to love thy neighbor, by the way.

I was part of a church and on their worship team for about 7 years. I loved it. I loved the church and many of the people there. I felt like I was part of a family – until I did something that was deemed “against God’s will.” I was moving in with my non-Christian boyfriend before we were married. I was immediately called into an intervention of sorts, where they tried to convince me that I was doing the wrong thing and that if I went through with this decision, then I would be removed from the worship team. They also tried to tell me that my boyfriend and I were “unequally yoked” – a phrase often weaponized in the church to shame an unmarried Christian into leaving their non-Christian partner. I think I attended one more Sunday service after that, and then promptly left. I stepped foot into that church 2 other times since then. Once to see if anything had changed. It hadn’t. And again to watch a friend be married. That was it.

I briefly attended another church, which I enjoyed. They were definitely more welcoming and honoring of their congregation. They loved people where they were and they were more charismatic, but the pandemic happened, which kept me home on Sundays. The 2020 election really fast-tracked my deconstruction for obvious reasons. Through this time, my beliefs were expanding. I realized that inclusive and affirming worship places were pertinent. God loves and honors all – gay, straight, trans, black, brown, white, atheist, agnostic, and everyone in between. He honors the things that make us who we are. I’ve learned that when people say “the Bible is very clear about x”, chances are, the Bible isn’t clear at all about that thing.

So I’ve stopped going to church altogether. I may never go back. I’m not sure. It would have to be a very open, welcoming, and affirming place. Where I live, that isn’t very prevalent. And that’s ok. The thing is, I’m not deconstructing from God. I’m deconstructing from the church. The church isn’t in alignment with God. I’m happy enjoying my life and building meaningful relationships elsewhere. There are people who stop believing in God altogether when they deconstruct. That’s ok, too. I respect that so much. I truly believe we all have a place in eternal goodness.

So where does that leave me this Christmas season? Honestly, I’m still stressed with present-buying and baking and holiday event hosting. I didn’t go to church for a candlelight service. I didn’t guilt myself into remembering the “reason for the season.” It is evident when I am with family and someone asks that I pray over the meal. It’s awkward when a very religious family member wants to “pray for/with me” or discuss theological ideas that I don’t subscribe to, which are many. With this being the second Pandemic Christmas™ in a row, though, it was much of the same. Do we get together with family? How do we stay safe? Is everyone healthy? Maybe it’ll be more evident when the Panorama is more controlled and things are more close to normal. Maybe. I guess we’ll see.

If you happen to be deconstructing and struggled through Christmas, please know that you are not alone. There are many of us out here trying to untangle the trauma we experienced from the church. We are unlearning the misogyny, racism, and patriarchal ideas that we taught with God’s supposed stamp of approval. We are healing from the trauma inflicted by people who we were supposed to be able to trust. We are learning to love ourselves again. You can love yourself again. You are worth it. You are loved.

Divorce: The Best Decision I Made … In the Last 10 Years

Divorce: The Best Decision I Made … In the Last 10 Years

This post will probably rub many people the wrong way – especially my fellow Christians. Good. I hope it does. There’s a very important point to this, so keep reading.

First, let me make this very clear. Divorce is hard and painful. If I would have known my first marriage was going to end in divorce, I never would have gotten married. I’m sure that goes without saying, but I’m saying it. But I also believe that no time is ever wasted and God redeems everything, including time.

My first marriage was never what I would call “good”. Some people who know me might be surprised by this fact. Others, conversely, are not surprised at all. Perspective is a funny thing. There are several factors that play into this but I truly believe that even if we each would have made better choices, we would have eventually ended up in the same place.

Why do I believe that? Suffice it to say that I’m a problem solver and a fighter. I believe no situation is hopeless. That passion and perseverance were not reciprocated. A relationship like that will never last. And typically, after that pattern goes on long enough, there is a lot of resentment that eventually turns into an emotionally abusive relationship, at best.

In my first marriage, I became a person I didn’t know. Words that come to mind are weak, powerless, co-dependent, pessimistic, underachiever. Now, these words are far from the truth. They are lies from the depths of hell, but that is how I was living.

Here is the trick, though. I believed that if I tried hard enough or “gave it to God” enough, that it would get better and my marriage would be saved. I believed that if I pushed through and persevered that it would get better. And I honestly thought divorce would be the worst possible thing to happen. I wasn’t a quitter. And God is always faithful.

That said, God is always faithful – it just might not be in the way we want Him to be at that time. He works everything out for our good. We just may not be able to see it right now.

During the struggles in my first marriage, I had several well-meaning Christians give me advice.

“God honors marriage.”

“Give it up to Him.”

“God hates divorce.”

“God can redeem any situation.”

These are all TRUE statements. But I’m here to tell you something:

God does hate divorce, but not more than He loves you.

Let me repeat that for those in the back:

God does not hate divorce more than He loves you.

Our God is a personal, loving Father who loves you more than anything. He wants the absolute best for you. It breaks His heart to see His children suffer.

I will never tell someone that if their marriage is struggling, then go get divorced. Every couple and situation is uniquely different. But if the only reason you are still in your marriage is that you think divorce is a sin and you think you’re honoring God by staying, then I want to encourage you in knowing that God loves you more than that. I recommend you shift your heart posture from being sin focused to being focused on our loving, graceful Father.

But if you have a partner who is willing to really work from a place of love, then partner with God and He will honor that.

Remember, God loves you more than He hates divorce. I promise. God will choose you every time.

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My life is so much better since choosing divorce. I’ve let go of so much guilt and shame. I’m closer to God than I’ve ever been or thought possible. I am becoming myself again. Positive, loving, driven. And slowly but surely my big dreams are becoming a reality.

I know there will be people who vehemently disagree with this post. I’m good with that. I’m confident in God’s promises for me and that’s all I need. I’ve learned to let the opinions of others not affect me.

But I encourage you to really lean into whatever may be causing offense in your heart about this post. When something causes us to have an offended heart, it is usually God stirring up a wound that needs healing. So lean into that and ask God where you need healing.

Or you can call me a heretic. I’m fine with that too. While I truly hope you find healing, I won’t be offended if you disagree with me.

And for those of you in the tough situation of trying to figure out if divorce is your best option, I’m sorry. It sucks. But I hope you find it encouraging to know that God loves you and blesses you whether or not you make all the right choices. That’s why His grace is so beautiful. The decision is never simple or easy, but He will be by your side through it all.

Finally, for my fellow divorcées; I’ve been there. My prayer for you is wholeness. Full restoration and healing in your family are possible, even though that may seem impossible right now. There is hope and beauty and healing on the other side of divorce. I promise.

Wine: The Best Grapes Grow in the Rockiest Soil

Wine: The Best Grapes Grow in the Rockiest Soil

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A friend and I were recently talking and he asked me if I liked wine and I just looked at him. Yeah. Hi, my name is Morgan and I love wine. He laughed and asked if I knew that the best grapes for wine are grown in the rockiest soil. No, I did not know that.

He went on to tell me that Riesling grapes grow the best in the rockiest soil. Their roots have to grow very deep to find the nutrients needed to withstand the elements. So the roots of these vines grow deep and strong, and the result is producing the sweetest grape – perfect for wine.

What a beautiful metaphor for life. The sweetest moments in life are often born from the most barren situations or seasons. Those barren areas of our lives cause us to really dig deep for the good stuff – for the sustenance to keep going. We really have to be intentional about finding the good things during those times.

Often times, when we look back at the rocky times in our lives, we are able to see the difficulties in it all but the good parts shine brighter and taste a bit sweeter. Those good moments, like a refreshing sip of water, highlight our journey and give us the strength to keep moving forward.

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Sometimes our best fruit comes out of those rocky seasons. Whether it’s in losing a job so you can pursue what you truly love. Or losing a relationship so you find your true partner in life. Or receiving a blessing you can’t explain or didn’t earn – having a debt paid unexpectedly, or someone buying your dinner, or something beautiful being gifted to you.

Most importantly, though, the rocky soil in our life becomes a breeding ground for growth, truth, and life. We become the best versions of ourselves if we stay resilient and dig deep.

If you’re going through a rocky time in life, or maybe it’s just been a rocky life, and everything seems dead and barren, dig deep and find the good stuff. Dig deep and find gratitude for what is coming. Dig deep and be excited to know that the best grapes grow out of the rockiest soil.

Mourning the Loss of What Wasn’t

A friend of mine who has a strong social media presence recently posted on Facebook about how we filter our lives on social media — the facade that is often put up to show how great our lives are. He made a point to say that while he aims to be positive, he is also real. Everyone has stressful days or bad things happen to them. His point was to say, “Hey, I keep a positive mindset, but shitty things happen in my life, too. You’re not alone.”

While I’m well aware of this fact about him, or any of my other friends on social media, it was relevant for me that particular morning. The previous night, my uncle passed away after a 10 year battle with colon cancer. I wasn’t particularly close to my uncle. Then again, he wasn’t really close to many people outside of his immediate family. But growing up, he was a fixture in my life. I spent summer after summer at his house hanging out with my aunt and cousins. My aunt doesn’t have any daughters, so I was the next best thing.

She took me shopping and let me wear makeup. I spent endless summer days at the ballpark watching my cousins play baseball and listening to my aunt and uncle scream, holler, and cheer. She took me to swimming lessons and let me watch movies my mom and dad would never let me watch – I promised I wouldn’t say anything (Sorry, Aunt Lyl! Secret’s out!)

All through these memories, my Uncle Wes is on the fringe. A few things I knew about Uncle Wes: He loved music and even owned a guitar, though I never remember hearing him play. But he had a classic sound system all the neighbors could enjoy. He loved his hair and his cowboy hats. One summer he taught me and my cousins how to play 5 card stud. He worked for “the union”, which, as a kid, meant we got tickets to see WWF or the CMA Awards dress rehearsals. And we got lots of free stuff from the trade shows that came through town. One summer we had an endless supply of fun sized bags of Spicy Doritos. Those are still a guilty pleasure to this day.

It’s always heartbreaking when someone close to you dies. But when someone dies who you aren’t that close to or you wish you were closer to, it’s a different kind of tragic. You no longer have the opportunity to learn more about them or build a stronger relationship. There’s always this time of mourning. But rather than mourning the loss of something you had, you’re mourning the loss of something you didn’t. You’re mourning the lost opportunity of what could have been. I’ve felt this particular sense of loss more times than I care to count. Another word for it: Regret.

Now, if I would have reached out, called more, or spent more time with my Uncle Wes, would we have been closer or had a better relationship? Honestly, maybe not. But, maybe so. Did we have a bad relationship? Not really – in fact, we had gotten closer over the last 10 years.

I guess my point is to spend more time with people you love. You may not have the same lifestyles or see eye-to-eye on things, but take the time to show you care. Make a 5 minute phone call or send a 2 second text – because you just never know when you won’t be able to anymore.

Everyone Needs a Cheerleader

I am a cheerleader. I love to encourage people and tell them how much God has in store for them. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I do it because I know it’s true. We are all able to do amazing, extraordinary things.
So many of us, though, have been told otherwise. Life has beaten us down. We have been dragged through the mud. We are beaten and bruised.
I am here to tell you that God loves you and you are designed for greatness.
We have all been hurt. And sometimes we hurt others because we are hurting. Don’t let your hurt define you. Rise above it and do your best to not hurt others because of your hurt. That being said, we have all hurt others because we are hurting. Intentional or not. It’s okay. Apologize, forgive yourself, and move forward.

Everyone needs a cheerleader – even us cheerleaders. Be someone’s cheerleader today. It can change someone’s day – or their life.

Xoxo