The Five Stages

I originally created this website to keep track of travels, but with 2020 putting those on hold it looks like it’s going to be a space to keep track of all the things. Essays, poetry, photos, and travel when that’s safe and fun again – it’s all part of the journey.  This is an essay I wrote for a writing class I took part in this year. 

In my twenties I started asking a lot of questions about faith. I had been taught a lot about God, but there had been very little room for questioning. I mean, when I was young I casually asked a teacher “Did Jesus ever get married?” and quickly found out we just don’t ask questions like that. 

As I started letting myself question things, I found some people online who seemed to be doing the same. The most important find at that point in my life was Rachel Held Evans. I watched as she wrestled with faith, gained followers, continued to wrestle, gained haters, and continued thinking, searching, and questioning. She did this publicly and I hope she knew what a gift this was to the world. Rachel was the writer I needed to read, and when she got sick in 2019, my first thought was “She’ll be ok. She’s not done.” I only ever had one very quick interaction with her at an event, but when she passed away it shook me. It was tragic and senseless, and I wondered “Who will continue her work?” Now, years later, I find myself writing for the questioner, the one who isn’t ready to walk away from Jesus, but is done with the evangelicalism we were raised under. Rachel was the writer I needed— and still need. If my writing could do anything to help others the way hers helped me, then I would consider it a success.

Here are the 5 stages of questioning that I found (and still find) myself walking through, and I assume I’m not alone in a many of these:

The Secret Questioning
I can remember very specific moments in my life where I heard someone say something I’d heard 100 times, but instead of simply hearing it and moving on, I stopped and thought “wait, that’s not true.” In these moments you don’t speak up right away, maybe not for years. You simply start letting yourself think about whether or not these beliefs are true.  

Quiet Research
The questions aren’t going away, and you’re coming up with new ones pretty regularly at this point. This is the stage where you order books, read blog posts, and scour the Bible to see if these things you’ve always been taught are true. You’re still too scared to talk about it out loud, but you continue searching for answers. You’re sitting in the same groups of people, having the same conversations, but starting to see the cracks. 

Whispered Musings
You’ve drawn some conclusions and you subtly seek out others who might understand. This is the stage where you quietly let people hear your thoughts, and hope they don’t walk away. You make little statements and see what you get in return. If you’re me, you drop it if there’s pushback. If you’re braver than me, you push it and force the discussion every now and then. This is the stage where you start seeing the light come through the cracks. 

Living in Between
You go to a Community church now. Sure, this church is definitely a Baptist one in disguise, BUT IT SAYS COMMUNITY. You’ve drawn conclusions through your research that differ from the things many of the believers who surround you believe.

You’re living in between. You feel comfortable here with your worship music and your friends, while also feeling like you’re from another planet. There are people at this church who are on the same wavelength as you, and you continue side conversations with them, but largely you’re a deconstructed person living in the world you’ve always known. 

Zero Effs Left
I haven’t reached this one yet, but I feel myself moving closer. Some days I wake up here. I look at the others who are living in the land of ZERO EFFS, and they seem so free. I think this stage usually comes fully when we finally realize that we gain much more than we lose by living in the freedom of knowing who we are and who we believe God is.  In this stage, you barely notice the cracks anymore – you’ve finally opened the damn windows, and the light is pouring in. 

I believe there really is a freedom in Christ, but we have really lost sight of how to obtain it. I look forward to writing more here, and hope it can be helpful for others along the way.