Faith shifting often brings with it questioning, unfulfilled longings, shame, and feelings being unsettled, unempowered and/or restless. After some time, we have to choose how to respond to what is happening in order to resolve our “dissatisfaction, disengagement, apathy, and doubt.” Kathy Escobar suggests that there are two possibilities: return to or unravel from our previous faith system.
Escobar defines returning, by noting that “As we shift, sometimes we find that going back to where we had been isn’t so bad. We make some peace with our questions and doubts enough to still go to church and be part.” She notes that “Most of us don’t like change, discomfort, or the unknown. We like to play it safe. I call this stage Returning. I shifted and returned many a time over the years; I think a lot of us do. Returning is not bad, a sign of weakness, a signal that you’re doing something wrong. It’s just reality for a lot of people in this process.”
Escobar defines unraveling as “This is when the shifts can’t be contained any longer and we begin the downward spiral of losing beliefs, structures, then relationships, and often our identity. This season is centered on loss and we often experience intense feelings of anger, sadness, confusion, fear, and shame.” She notes that “Our values shift from certainty, conformity and affiliation to a deep desire for autonomy, authenticity, and uncertainty.”
Neither returning nor unraveling are easy. To some degree, returning seems easy, as we return to what we already know, especially the community that cares about us. Yet, it is difficult to return without having to either 1) minimize or deny the questions and feelings that were part of our faith shift experience or 2) learn to live permanently with some of the feelings inherent to faith shifting: apathy, cynicism, disengagement, or dissatisfaction.
Escobar, in her role as a pastor, emphasizes how hard unraveling can be: “The other part about Unraveling I want to mention is how lonely and confusing it is. So many people don’t understand, don’t like the realities, want us to “come back.” Unraveling is especially hard because it tends to untether us from church and our faith community.
Feel free to join us, either online or in person (Monday evenings at 6 pm at the house 1518 River Terrace Dr), as we explore further the different dimensions of returning and/or unraveling.