The book you are now holding is a work of love. An offering. A faith crisis affects so many areas of our lives: our feelings surrounding our identity, our marriages, the way we parent, our morality, and all that we desire to make of our time here on the planet (to name a few). Perhaps this is why the faith crisis journey can feel so large. As it turns out, it is no small thing to navigate! While I feel at peace with my faith journey–I would have so appreciated having some insights from mental health professionals (and humble me) who have personal and professional experience with navigating a faith crisis. A book addressing my exact situation would have felt so validating.
For although that evening was over a decade ago…
I can still remember the moment vividly. John sat me down late one night, after the children were tucked in their beds for sleep. He spoke softly, with a tremble. He wanted me to know that he no longer thought the LDS Church was what he had once believed.
He felt alone and lied to. I had seen John’s pain spread over several months. It was tangible. I knew he was wrestling with the research he was doing with Church history and his seminary calling, but I was still slapped hard in my soul that night. Stricken. Stunned.
I cried. I asked questions. Cried some more. Asked more questions. I asked to see a bit of what John was talking about — to read a bit of what he had read. And this is when John and I began to engage in an honest and sincere conversation about spirituality…one that continues to this day.
I did not know it then, but that moment–that jarring, painful evening–gave birth to a new spiritual landscape for me. I experienced an inner shift. It is said that we often can’t decide what wakes us up–only how we respond to it. It was like I spent years building a huge tower of blocks — principles taught by the LDS Church. I had followed the directions I had been given. I placed certain blocks in the foundation, built it to an impressive height, and it was all in order. It was a good-looking tower. It seemed solid. But after that evening with John, and as I began to open myself up to my life, the blocks began to fall. Hard. One after another. Some fell immediately, others took a little more time.
I felt a number of emotions–
- perpetual panic (I am a total planner. I love structure. I eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!)
- bouts of anger (At John, the church, the ward, myself.)
- overwhelmed (It felt like too much to process at one time. So many emotions. So many things to consider–none of which were straight forward)
- confused (What was the right thing to do in this moment? What about our children? There were times when I felt in the middle–trying to consider John’s needs, but also the children’s needs. Wait, don’t I have needs too? We did not always match up.)
- instability (We were IN the church, OUT of the church, exploring new churches, trying home church, back IN the church again?)
- tremendous sadness (I felt like I was losing my past and my future. The present was unknown. Was there anything this loss did not touch?)
- fear ALL THE TIME (Am I going to lose my marriage? Are my children going to suffer? Will I be cursed? How will I manage life on my own?)
I wonder if you feel any of these things.
My experience is that this stage is not a destination. It is not meant to last forever (thankfully). With any loss, the key is movement. Feel what you feel. Allow it to flow. Over time, the pain should lessen. Get better. Moments of pleasure or joy should return. If life doesn’t improve over time, you might be stuck. Stuck to me means that there may be deeper issues at hand. There may be other losses or pain that have not been fully processed in your life that may be getting in the way. Or you may simply have too much all at once to sift through. Having compassion for ourselves amidst this stage of crisis is so important.
Amidst this time, a remarkable thing happened. As most of the blocks were falling down around me, I noticed that some blocks or truths remained along with new ones I had picked up along my way. The stripping away of one foundation had left another (more basic) one in its stead. So clarifying. Some of these blocks for me were: honesty, compassion, connection, family, openness, curiosity, the value of listening, a commitment to growth, the power of forgiveness, a belief in the importance of doing my own work as a person, a reconnection to the belief that “life is wise.”
I experienced a subtle internal shift as I began to heal. I slowly began to connect to myself from the inside out. I just followed what I resonated with. Truth, love, joy, and beauty were no longer found in a religion box on Sundays at 11am nor were they triggering reminders of all I had lost. They were readily available and most often found in the simple everyday moments. My current tower looks very different from the one of my early adulthood–but it is more mine than ever. Each block was carefully considered and placed on my own terms.
My hope is that this book will provide you with some practical tips to consider as you work through your own faith crisis–and in so doing, allow you to feel more empowered in your own process. Our insights are not meant to be prescriptive in any way. You are the captain of your ship. The creator of your own story. Take what feels useful . A wonderful journey awaits you. There is hope. Be gentle with yourself amidst this process. Try to be patient with those you love. We are with you.