At 23 years old, I was about to graduate from the small Christian liberal arts college I had attended for for years and I was paralyzed.
For 23 years, I had always known what to do: Graduate high school with the best possible grades, then go to a good Christian college where I was supposed to meet a nice Christian man and get married. Have kids. Raise them. Simple.
I was afraid I had really mis-stepped. I hadn’t successfully found a husband, or any boyfriend for that matter. I was aware that I was falling woefully short of the objectives. I was graduating with degrees in InterCultural Religious Studies and Sociology but I was no where closer to understanding “God’s plan” for my life.
This, I thought was the problem… how to discern, quiet myself, listen for the mystical, mysterious answer that I so desperately wanted to receive? As evangelicals have been taught to do, I turned away from myself and deferred to someone else to help me know what God wanted me to do with my life.
As I look back on this time of my life, I see some serious issues with the evangelical push to live out “God’s will” and to somehow assume that any natural desires, interests or inclinations were “from the flesh” and not of Go, and therefore could not be trusted. From the youngest age, I was urged to abandon myself and my own needs for the approval of someone else… Jesus, my parents, God, etc.
Evangelical Christianity is built on the premise of solid truisms, having staunch faith. Things are black or white and there is zero tolerance for shades of gray.
This overemphasis on certainty and conviction leaves little room for nuance, mystery, and actual faith when one has to have everything figured out in advance and be right about it or pay the price for being wrong for the rest of time. This results in incredible psychological pressure.
As an adult this left me vulnerable. I didn’t know how to tune into myself or even trust the “still small voice” if I had been sure that I heard it. I had outsourced my connect with my own inner compass and wanted other people to tell me what was true for me or what I needed.
Disentangling from evangelical christianity took more time for me, and in my late 20s I was confirmed in the Episcopal church, a place where we regularly speak about the fact that faith is full of mysteries.
I know the loneliness of becoming an exvangelical and working through layers of religious trauma, and wondering who you will be on the other side of it all. In my case, this life began to feel like a sweater that I had outgrown. Even though I had loved it at times in the past, it no longer fit, and I couldn’t comfortably wear it anymore.
If this resonates with you and you’d like to learn how to solidly trust yourself again, please reach out to me. I am privileged to work with courageous people every day, who are deprogramming from the past and valiantly forging a bright new future equipped with new tools. This, is what I imagine the apostle Paul really meant when he wrote “Be transformed by the renewing of your minds, that you may prove what is the good and perfect will of God,” (Romans 12:2).
Emily is a certified and trauma-aware life coach, specializing in breakthrough experiences.