Shifting: When Things Get Rumbly

when our faith begins to shift

This post is part of a short 6-post series, a small taste of some of the major movements in Faith Shift–Fusing, Shifting, Returning, Unraveling, Severing, Rebuilding.

This is how you know you might be in a middle of a faith shift.  Last week, we talked about the 10 Commandments of a Fused Faith and some of the rules of that stage in our journey. These first 3 (Fusing, Shifting, and Returning) are part of the first section to lay the foundation to where so many of us are living right now–Unraveling, when everything we once believed begins falling apart.

We are all in different places in our story, but I do think that what’s happening in the wider world of Christianity is very consistent with what happens to a lot of us after some length in Fusing–things start to get rumbly and stop working the way they used to. 

We start asking questions we didn’t ask before.

We start experiencing a stirring for something more than the safety of Fusing brings.

Our eyes start opening to the some of the realities of the systems we’ve ascribed to.

This is the season I call Shifting.

Shifting always comes after Fusing; we can’t shift until we have something to shift from. It is the season in our faith journey where things level out instead of ascend, where clear lines become more fuzzy or bumpy. This is where we start to outgrow the values of affiliation, conformity, and certainty and long for something more.

While people bring many unique experiences to this season, Shifting typically includes:

  • beginning to question systems to which we once happily ascribed
  • feeling unsettled about particular beliefs and doctrinal tenets
  • longing to feel more known and loved by God and others
  • experiencing a deep restlessness that something might be missing in our spiritual lives
  • wanting to use our passions and gifts but feeling unempowered
  • worrying about losing our security and stability if we lean into these scary and unfamiliar feelings
  • fearing that we are doing something wrong spiritually (p. 40)

Any of these feel familiar?

The thing about Shifting that’s important to say is that it’s not a free-fall.

It’s not a place where everything comes apart and we lose everything (that comes later for a lot of us).

It’s not where there’s no turning back.

In fact, we have some control over Shifting. We can choose what to do with what’s being stirred up. During this season, most of us still stay in churches and ministries.

People around us may see us the same, but we know something’s different inside.

This stage is definitely not drastic yet, and there’s no big loss here; it’s just the rumbly stirring of dissatisfaction, disengagement, apathy, and doubt.

Even though I didn’t begin a drastic Unravel until 11 years ago, I started shifting many years before that when I kept bumping into some of the same things in the churches I was part of–a focus on “us and them”, unhealthy leadership, an attempt to push real feelings down and cover them up with bible verses, a haughty certainty about the Bible that stopped feeling comforting, a divide between the sick and the healthy and the strong and the weak.

When I started to doubt in the early stages of Shifting, I heard a loud voice in my head saying, You must be doing something wrong.

Other shifters hear similar messages:

Everyone else seems fine, so there must be something wrong with me.

If I can just pray harder, believe more, or do more, I’ll get the good feelings back.

I expect too much—after all, no church is perfect.

Who said we were supposed to feel good anyway?

God must be trying to teach me something and I’m just not getting it (p. 47-48). 

The noise we hear during Shifting isn’t just about what’s wrong with us. It can also be about questions we start to ask, theological and leadership disparities we start to observe, or feelings we can’t seem to shake (p. 48):

  • Was all of this time spent in church a waste?
  • How much can I really question without getting in trouble with other people or even with God?
  • Am I the only one who feels this way? Why haven’t I heard anyone else talk about this stuff before?
  • How many friends will I lose? Will I ever be able to find a spouse if I don’t believe certain things?
  • Is the Bible really inerrant, without one single mistake?
  • What about the other religions of the world? Are all of those people completely wrong, destined for hell?
  • What if I no longer believe homosexuality is a sin and I say that out loud?
  • Why are my atheist and agnostic friends treating me with more kindness and respect than my Christian brothers and sisters do?
  • What will my parents think?
  • What if I’m being deceived and giving into the world?
  • What will I do for a living if I am no longer in ministry?
  • Is this what Jesus really had in mind for church?

These are just a few, but I’d love to know what you would add to this list.

Depending on where you’re–what’s either rattling in your head now about your shifting faith or was part of your past when things had just started getting rumbly and you weren’t sure what to do about it?

Next up–Returning: Playing it Safe.

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