Keith Giles wrote the foreword to Laura and I’s new book Out Into the Desert: Thriving Outside Organized Religion (releasing in August). I’m thrilled that he agreed to do this, but that is not the point of this post.
I wrote this book a couple years ago and hesitated to publish it. Many of us have had to take courageous positions because of the way we feel about religion. Reading Keith’s forward today moved me deeply! It reminded me while we do this…
“There’s nothing in this book you probably don’t already know in your bones. That’s not to say you won’t learn anything new by reading it, or that what Karl and Laura have written here isn’t worth your time or attention.
On the contrary, it’s precisely because you already know the same pain, struggle, doubt, anxiety, fear and loneliness they speak of in these pages that this book will become more precious, necessary and healing for you.
Because you know this desert well. You’ve become accustomed to wandering
alone where there is no path, no marker, no landmark, no guidepost to point the way. You’re familiar with the feelings of isolation as those who once called you “brother” or “sister” suddenly pretend not to recognize you at the grocery store. You’ve known the anguish of doubt as the faith that once comforted you suddenly evaporates in the heat of unanswered questions.
None of us finds ourselves in this desert because we wanted to be here. We never set out to make our home in this wasteland. We merely asked a question, which turned into another question, and before we knew it we were being asked to keep quiet, to stop rocking the boat, and then, eventually, to leave – either because they couldn’t tolerate our doubt, or because we couldn’t bear to listen to their toxic theology for one more minute.
Either way, we found ourselves spiritually homeless, wandering like nomads in a desert of uncertainty, searching for an oasis of truth and, who knows, maybe even a tribe that welcomes our questions and embraces our uncertainty.
If any of this resonates with you, let me be the first to inform you: you are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands – perhaps millions – of people just like you all around the globe who have pulled those same threads, asked the same questions, removed the same Jenga pieces, and watched their entire spiritual identity unravel, collapse and vanish like a mist.
Still, the fact that, statistically, there are innumerable nomads wandering this desert somewhere out there does nothing to comfort you here and now. You’re still the only person you know in your zip code who knows what it’s like to be who you are now, and to be where you’re at in this moment.
That’s why this book, and others like it, are so important. Because they serve as necessary reminders that, while we feel so alone, we are nevertheless surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who understand our pain and have walked this path before us.
Karl and Laura are both wise, experienced guides for the journey you find yourself on at this moment. They have walked this path and found hope when it wasn’t easy to find. They’ve struggled, suffered, wept, given up, walked away, fallen down, and then, when anyone else would have given in despair, they found the inner resolve to keep going, and keep searching for hope when there was simply no good reason to do so.
I’ll bet you know what that’s like. I’m sure you know how it feels. I know I do. My wife, Wendy, and I have felt called to follow the Spirit out into the desert – into the great unknown – and we’ve wandered out into the darkness, not sure of where we were going, but certain that where we were wasn’t home, and where we’d been wasn’t right for us. That holy discontent drove us out of our comfort zones, away from our paid church staff positions, and out where all we had were questions and not a lot of answers.
The good news is, we found our way. Karl and Laura did, too. You’ll make it, just as we did, by learning to listen to the voice of the Spirit, ignoring the naysayers and the cynics who try to discourage you, and setting your face towards the polar north star that pulls on that invisible compass needle somewhere deep in your chest.
You know the one. That irresistible yearning for truth that you cannot let go of, and that will not – ever – let you go; it calls to you, it knows your name, it seeks you, it draws you, inevitably, out into the desert, out where every mystic, and prophet, and messiah has always felt drawn.
In these pages you will hear echoes of truth that vibrate with the frequency of your inner tuning fork. You will find yourself nodding along with the words you read. You will hear your own inner voice ringing in unison with theirs in these pages.
Best of all, you’ll realize that it’s possible to not only survive this journey, but to actually thrive.
Welcome to the desert, my friends. We’re glad you’re here. “
Keith Giles, author of the 7-part “Jesus Un” series from Quoir Publishing, El Paso, TX