In Search of a Grown-up

In Search of a Grown-up May 15, 2024

In Search of a Grown-up

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In real life, I’m a fairly low-key, go-with-the-flow person who occasionally gets emotional about something. When I feel like someone has to say something, I say it quite strongly. Those who know me know that I’m soft-hearted but also occasionally come out swinging when I notice injustice. I told my therapist the other day that the only fights I ever got into were with bullies. For some reason, I was drawn to aggressive pastors during my early adult years. Maybe it’s because I felt like they were shouting at the bullies. Maybe I felt like they were standing up for me in some distorted way, and then, naturally, that felt good. Now that I have deconstructed my faith mostly, and I am disabled by my stroke, I have several hours each morning where I do various things, including writing and reflecting on my life, my beliefs, and my approach to the future.  After leaving the ministry, I had time to self-examine, and I can confidently say that I have effectively addressed most of my issues and any harm I might have done in the first half of my life.  One of the things that was very evident in my journey was that I was always looking for some other man to partner with or endorse me. I craved that validation, and I wanted to be a part of something significant and meaningful that made a difference in the world. One pastor said, “Karl, I don’t know what you want from me. I have your struggles, and I don’t have a silver bullet for you.” 

When I was in ministry, it was easy to partner with other church members to complete projects, which gave me a sense of satisfaction. I also felt the same satisfaction when working because I was bi-vocational. I always had projects at work and at the church and got to work with many amazing people, but this only temporarily satisfied my longing.

My new life has changed a lot of that. I spend most mornings alone writing, reflecting, and planning future book projects, blogs, and podcasts. I have learned to be more comfortable with solitude and do not need constant interaction with others to fulfill me. I occasionally get lonely, but I can navigate it successfully most days and am learning to be comfortable in my presence. So, what’s the point? In the past, because I felt the need for companionship, partners, and mentors, I sometimes ignored the obvious things that were wrong with my politics, my religion, and my personal friends. I was listening to Michael Cohen testify against Trump this week. I resonated with him when he reflected that he ignored his moral compass to be accepted by those in power, including Trump. When I am able to evaluate the world around me authentically, it is both enlightening and frightening because, like before, it’s hard to find a grown-up in the world I live in. On one hand, I can make excuses now for whatever I want because I can always compare myself to someone else who is not navigating as well as I am. But sometimes, I also have to admit and mourn because of the state of the world around me. I’m searching for a grown-up in religion. Now that I’m not involved in religion, it is very evident to me that religion in the United States promotes and attracts narcissists to the stage, creating toddlers in charge who expect everyone to come to hear them speak, pay them money, and volunteer their labor.  They don’t seem to have grand ideas except to control more things as they stoke fear in their followers. Groups that are more loving and inclusive sometimes spend their time criticizing the other side and still follow the systemically flawed system of religion that fosters abuse. I’m looking for someone who will stand up to the system, not protect and defend the abusive practices of religion. I’m also looking for a grown-up in politics. I noticed yesterday that the Speaker of the House went to the trial of a former president accused of sleeping with an adult film star while married and doing illegal things to cover it up so that he could gain power. This overtly religious Speaker wasn’t comforting the defendant or supporting “law and order.” He was protecting his position of power. Again, I understand that power corrupts, but I’m just looking for one or two people who would operate with integrity and stand up for the abused, neglected, and marginalized people instead of protecting their positions of power. As I progressed through my deconstruction/evolution, I gravitated towards more progressive, inclusive forms of faith and religion. But eventually, I found some of the same DNA present in those who emerged from more conservative evangelical origins. They played the same games of protecting those in power, ignoring those who were being negatively affected by their practices, and sacrificing their integrity to benefit themselves.  The good news is that I am finding mature people with integrity in all areas of my life. But I don’t see them atop the book sellers’ chart, in the more popular areas of the deconstruction world, or even in progressive Christianity. I realize I can find endorsements from people if I look, act, and believe the same way they do. But endorsements and shout-outs from someone, just like politics, usually only mean that I said something exactly like the other person wanted me to. I feel much better these days when I search deep inside myself for my authentic voice and my own beliefs and then release those thoughts without expectation. It feels much better to be appreciated for who I am instead of being what they want me to be.  I can call out abuse when I see it—I can speak my truth—I can be who I am. As a former pastor of smaller churches, I was very good at fitting in and being who they wanted me to be. When I felt strongly about things that went against the grain, I sometimes paid the price for speaking truth to the power brokers.  Even though I occasionally feel lonely, I don’t feel I am in any significant way suffering for speaking up about injustice to the power brokers in my world. I voluntarily choose to move away from people who consider their position and the reputation of the group more important than the individuals (“the least of these”). Narcissistic people tend to ignore the voices that give honest critiques about their behavior. I’m not even hoping they will change because that frustrates me, knowing they probably will not. I encourage all of us to stand up, as many of our heroes have done, and live more authentically. I have found that there are people, just like gold nuggets, which I discovered while digging through the dirt in search of truth.  I encourage you to cherish but never idolize these people.  They are the people that change the world. Take a break from your battle to fit in, and consider (and reconsider) this exchange:[1]  

MAYA ANGELOU: You only are free when you realize you belong no place— you belong every place —no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great…

 BILL MOYERS: Do you belong anywhere?

 MAYA ANGELOU: I haven’t yet.

BILL MOYERS: Do you belong to anyone?

MAYA ANGELOU: More and more… I belong to myself. I’m very proud of that. I am very concerned about how I look at Maya. I like Maya very much.

Be where you are, be who you are, Karl Forehand The Four Existential Concerns What is Trauma? It’s Going to be Okay   This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-1.png 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.       [1]

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