Stop, Drop, and Heal

Stop, Drop, and Heal January 7, 2024

Stop, Drop, and Heal

Photo by Vlad Bagacian:

Seven or eight years ago, we began what most people call deconstruction. Laura was silent about it because I was a pastor, and she did not want to interfere with my ministry. We attended a larger church for a couple of years, but almost immediately, we began to question everything and eventually, our questions were bigger than the place we found ourselves.

While questioning everything, I discovered a process that helped me address my inner child issues and get to the heart of some of the trauma that I had felt and experienced. It immediately brought healing, but it also revealed other, deeper things. When I left the ministry after 20 years, it felt like I was on fire. But eventually, different people convinced me to stop and slow down and heal (stop, drop, and roll?). The flames of doubt, confusion, and other things began to subside.

Most people that go through deconstruction experience similar things to these. Once the pressure of organized religion is removed and they find some time to investigate things more closely, they will naturally find those who can comfort and help them begin the healing process. At this point, what we were inclined to do was not the best thing. Because we are grateful that we have found some relief from our suffering and frustration of organized religion, many of us (especially pastors and ministry leaders) set out to start our own thing.

It may not be the wrong thing to do. But it is most likely too soon!

My assumptions about trauma in the church

The way we have run organized religion for the past 1500 years causes some specific systemic issues. The first is what I like to call putting the toddlers in charge. Most people intuitively understand what I am talking about, and it would take a long time to explain, but let me attempt to summarize. Those who love being on stage are good at being on stage, but they are usually ill-prepared to handle the pressures of being in that position we have designed so foolishly.

If they are effective at recruiting members and keeping them entertained, the problem only gets worse. They do not have time to care for themselves and most are not trained in mental health and are just now learning about trauma in the Church. The organization always comes first and most of the time and money is spent on buildings and salaries—not mental health issues.

Deconstructing from Religion

For many of us, our lives were enmeshed in church activities and our beliefs and identities in the dogmas of our inherited systems. When we cannot take it anymore, we step away and we soon realize we have now inherited some PTSD and usually some sort of identity crisis.

But as I said before, we often find some relief even just in breaking those addictions. But we also find teachers, and healers who have time for us. They “hold space” for us, and even this simple act of listening deeply helps us to heal and find clarity. All kinds of excitement rush through our bodies and we run to help others. Religion would tell us, “That’s right, get busy and help others.”

The trouble is we are probably not ready.

The biggest reason we should not rush out and start a side hustle or some kind of ministry is that we still haven’t resolved our identity crisis. Until we know who we are, we shouldn’t invent things to do. There is no way to be authentic unless we know who we are. I hate to break sad news, but most people do not make any money at this, and we also have an elevated risk of hurting other people and repeating the mistakes that we made in church. Often, when Laura and I see people struggling out here in the desert, it is most often because they do not yet know who they are.

A better approach

Religion is famous for copying other ministries that have been successful or appear that way. In the small towns, where we pastored, it was common for churches to all want their own youth group even when the town barely had a small grocery store. The best advice I received here in the Desert was, “Be patient and let it come to you.”

Guess what came to me? A Few months ago, I got the opportunity to amplify women’s voices at our Leaning Forward conference. So, after seven years, I got to make nine other people more known, and we received $50 in donations for all that work. It doesn’t sound like a win for me, but it was because I got to be exactly who I am. For once, I was totally guided by my intuition, and I followed it authentically.

Not making the same mistakes

For many of us, writing/blogging is healing. I highly recommend things like this practice that exercises different parts of our brain. What I don’t recommend is producing a piece of art that is genuine and authentic, and then when released, waiting for it to go viral. Almost all things we produce, even if they are excellent, don’t attract any attention. Don’t make the mistake of reinventing yourself or your business or especially your contributions to the world. When it is authentic, it will find its home where it is supposed to be. It helps us as much as others.

May I suggest the following:

Relax a little, give life a chance to flow its own way, unassisted by your mind and effort. Stop directing the river’s flow.” ~Mooji

Self-care isn’t selfish. If you want to help others, you must do the hard work of going inside, discovering who you are, and identifying the most important inner work left to be done. Most of us would be better advised to be examples and friends, instead of “leaders!”

Be where you are, be who you are, be at peace,

Karl Forehand

Previous Post: Usurping Women’s Voice from the Patriarchy – Sherri Bothwell

Karl Forehand is a former pastor, podcaster, and award-winning author. His books include Out into the Desert, Leaning Forward,  Apparent Faith: What Fatherhood Taught Me About the Father’s Heart, The Tea Shop and Being: A Journey Toward Presence and Authenticity.  He is the creator of The Desert Sanctuary podcast and community.  He is married to his wife Laura of 35 years and has one dog named Winston.  His three children are grown and are beginning to multiply! You can read more about the author here.

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