Running Scared

Running Scared

I’ve had a lot of conversations with people over the past couple of weeks who have been very confused by me and my message/platform. They believe that someone like me, in my position, with my background and upbringing, should be preaching a different message. Instead of asking hard questions like, “How has the church hurt you?” or “Did purity culture scar you?” or writing blogs about why I swear, I should only preach positive messages about the church and purity culture and watch my language. I believe some people think I’ve gone off the deep end after being raised in such a fundamental, legalistic environment and they wonder if I’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater

I understand their hearts – I really do. They aren’t trying to be nasty or argumentative. They are scared. I think as our world has changed so drastically in the past 10-20 years with the internet, technology and social media, etc (I’m rolling my eyes, but we have to make space for the fact that these things have dramatically impacted our world and culture), a lot of our religious messaging has not adapted to the times. The use of fear to keep people from experimenting is outdated. I think owning the fact that maybe we didn’t parent, lead, or teach the way we should have and are the catalyst for some people’s mental, emotional, and religious deconstructions is a hard pill to swallow. Instead of replacing fear with humility and owning when and how we got some things wrong, we are still running scared. And we’ve left a bunch of people in our wakes who are now running from a Jesus who doesn’t even exist.

Teaching me to fear certain things like the big three (sex, drugs, alcohol – should we add homosexuality and divorce?) was not the Jesus way. The Scriptures teach in 1 John 4:18 that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” and then again in 2 Timothy 1:7 that “God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind”. Gosh, if there is one thing that is absent from evangelicalism today, it’s a “sound mind”. I’ve heard how I am to practice “faith over fear” and then in the same breath am told I should be “terrified” about where the world is headed. Are you as confused as I am?

I’m not saying there aren’t consequences for our decisions. We all know there are. I’m just saying our modus operandi as Jesus Follower’s needs to change from leveraging fear to promoting love. Ah love. Another word so many of us are scared to death of. Doesn’t love mean you accept a person and approve of their behavior? Does it mean you are affirming? Can we just obliterate the words, “acceptance and approval and affirming” from our vocabulary? These are three other words evangelicals have used to totally muddy the waters of unconditional love. When someone tells me they love me and who I am but then also goes out of their way to explain all the ways they disagree with me, well, that’s not very accepting or loving (this has been done to me so many times). If you do this to other people (and I have, unfortunately), it’s really selfish and fearful. It’s me wanting you to know that I love you, but also wanting everyone else to know how I disagree with your lifestyle so they don’t misunderstand or judge me. I’m also protecting myself from future guilt over your decisions. If something goes bad wrong for you, I’ll be off the hook if I’ve told you where I stand on that issue.

How on God’s green earth is any of this loving? How does this exemplify any of what 1 Corinthians 13 says love is? It doesn’t.

Gosh, we’ve gotten so much of this wrong. Jesus never went around telling people he loved them and then giving them a laundry list of the things he didn’t like about their lives. Instead, he just hung out with people who were nothing like him, never changed who he was, and loved them unconditionally. It was this love, this kindness, that lead to repentance (as Romans says).

There is so much we’ve gotten wrong throughout the years on so many topics. I’m not going to burn a bridge with someone over something that I may not like or agree with. Nope. I am going to love that person like Jesus, hook, line and sinker. My love leads them to Jesus and then I trust Jesus to lead that person in the direction HE wants them to go. It’s that simple. I’m not the assistant Holy Spirit in people’s lives. It’s not my job to manipulate change through fear. It’s not on me to convince someone to live a certain way. It’s to point people to Jesus, someone who loves them just as they are, today. Someone who has a plan for their lives and will reveal that to them. That’s my job.

So I use my platforms as safe places for people to share and feel. I ask the questions that most people are too afraid to ask and I welcome all the answers. I try to model Jesus’s way of listening and loving no matter where a person is. They need to be seen and heard. I think the sooner we can slow down and replace fear with love and manipulation with kindness, the sooner we will be able to listen and hear what people are really saying. And that’s a game changer.

Reframing Your Past

Reframing Your Past

I’ll never forget one of my counselors explaining to me that we can stop developing emotionally at or around the point of our first major trauma. I was 25 at the time of the session, but I had a 14 year-old little girl huddled up inside my heart, hiding. You see, her safe, familiar world was turned upside down when her family moved to Upstate New York when she was just finishing middle school. No longer did she feel free, loved, seen. She felt exposed, misjudged, hurt, suffocated, angry. She was spending her formative years in an environment that wasn’t accepting or forgiving. And so she froze in time and hid. She became everything everyone else wanted her to become. And as each birthday rolled around, she grew further and further away from that little girl.

I burst into tears during that counselling session because I knew exactly who that little girl was and I was ready to embrace her again. But in order to do so, I had to also embrace who I had become in the meantime, and that was hard. I didn’t like who I was. And I didn’t like why I had become that person: Because people didn’t understand the difference between acceptance and approval and made me believe that the only way I could feel loved is by doing everything right and never getting anything wrong. I was more familiar with the emotion of shame than I was of love. I hated what had been done to me disguised in the Name of Jesus. I felt so afraid of him, so suffocated by guilt and religion that more often than not, I wished I wasn’t even a Christian anymore. It was just too hard.

It took me several years to get past my anger at who I was and what had been done to me. The more healthy I got, the more I wanted to go back in time and stand up for myself. I wanted to right all the wrongs done to me and my friends. But I couldn’t. There isn’t a blasted thing I can do to fix what has been. And so I had a choice: Could I begin to see my past differently? Could I see that the Jesus I was taught is not the Jesus in the Scriptures? Could I see that all the rules I was told to follow hold no power over my self-worth? Could I see that being a Jesus Follower isn’t suffocating – its a beautiful life full of freedom, grace, love, and forgiveness? Could I see that I had done my best with what I knew and what I had to keep myself alive in an environment that was dangerous and harmful and cost more people their futures and their lives than we care to admit? Could I get into counseling and begin to unwire my brain of the legalism/fundamentalism I was taught so I could begin to think and believe and live for myself? Could I love who I was and what Jesus has called me to?

Don’t get me wrong, I still get angry over things in my past. But I don’t allow them to create regret anymore. I would have never chosen what happened – but I had to face it and I faced it the best way I could with what little tools and knowledge I had at the time. Now that I know differently, I can embrace that little girl and tell her I’m sorry, I did the best I could, and from this point forward, things will be done differently. Not because I owe anyone anything. Not because I’m out to prove anything. Not because I need to make up for lost time. But because I know better now – and I know better because that little girl hid until it was safe to say, “Enough! No more! Let’s get back to who we are and who Jesus has made us to be!” I love who I am today and I know that I couldn’t be this person without who I once was. She made me into the compassionate warrior (my counselor’s description of me) that I am. And I wouldn’t trade who I am for anything.

Please don’t allow your past to sabotage your future by keeping you locked in a prison of regret, shame, and anger. You did the best you could back then. Now, you need to move forward and honor who God has made you to be and what he’s called you to do – TODAY.

I’m in your corner! Let’s get after it together!

Sebastian Scales: Child Molestation (Processing Trauma through Laughter)

Sebastian Scales: Child Molestation (Processing Trauma through Laughter)

Sebastian is a stand-up comedian who has used laughter to process and to heal from trauma. I’m so thankful he was brave enough and kind enough to share his story. He’s helping so many people reframe their pasts and to not live in fear of what has happened to them. Laughter allows us to be vulnerable and tears down walls for us to get real and begin to heal.

Trigger Warning: He shares his story of being molested from 8-10 years old. The language we both used would not be suitable for kids, so please listen to this with discretion.

If you were molested or are aware of a child being molested, please find someone safe to tell. We have to end this epidemic!

Make sure to check out Sebastian’s organization for more resources on ending child molestation.

Why I say F*&% and Other Swear Words

Why I say F*&% and Other Swear Words

If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, it’s no secret that I love to swear. The irony is that I grew up in a very legalistic, fundamental home, complete with “Swear-Free TV” (a box that would turn on closed captioning and use a replacement word for the curse word anytime an actor swore). “Ass” was “toe”, “sex” was “hugs”, “hell” and “damn” were just omitted, and I honestly can’t remember what “fuck” was. If we are being real, the “Swear-Free TV” didn’t do what we paid good money for it to do – cause we knew and said every word it replaced in our heads. Oops.

And that’s just it…right? You may not say the cuss words out loud, but you say them quite frequently in your heads. And why is?

Some of you may not know this, but I am an English major. I literally studied words in college and then taught high school English after that. I love words, spoken and written. Words enable us to communicate. And communication allows us to express ourselves. Authentic expression requires access to the entire English vernacular. Here’s what I mean…

When my brother committed suicide two years ago, I swore like a sailor for about three weeks straight. I wasn’t trying to be cool. I wasn’t trying to make a point. I wasn’t trying to get attention. I was trying to express myself and at that point, I really didn’t care what people thought of me. I experienced a pain I legit didn’t have words for. When people asked how I was, I honestly didn’t know how to communicate my ache. So, I swore and the swearing released my anger, fear, sadness, angst, brokenness, and pain in a way no other words could. Swearing allowed me to accentuate the few words I could actually put together. And those closest to me gave me the freedom of expression because they knew it revealed the deepest and most vulnerable spaces in my heart.

I realize for some of you this seems absurd. But I couldn’t answer the question, “How are you really doing?” with “Golly gosh, thanks for asking. This is the darndest pain I’ve ever felt and gee willerkers I am so angry and flipping sad.” How inauthentic does that sound? No. The only way I could describe how I felt was to say, “This is the fuckiest fuck I have ever experienced.” I wasn’t trying to make a point. I wasn’t trying to shock and awe. I wasn’t trying to be cool or hip. I was trying to express myself when words were literally failing me.

Cuss words (I live in the South) are simply just that – they are words. And words morph and change over the centuries. What was once considered “inappropriate language” is now common vernacular (insert “screwed”, “butthole”, “freakin”, “gosh”, “gees”, “crap” etc). I agree that there is a time and place for using “swear words”, but we have to remember that they are just words. Our reaction and interaction to them give them meaning.

I don’t cuss constantly. I am aware of my surroundings. I’m careful not to needlessly offend. But I also appreciate the injection of a timely word or words. When I read the verse “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift” (Ephesians 4:29), I take that at face value. I do not want to say things that are foul or dirty (this is not referring to cuss words – mind you) and I want to be helpful – using my words as gifts. I want to love people well – with my words, actions, and thoughts. Sometimes, an appropriately placed swear word is a gift because it allows someone to express their pain, anger, frustration in a healthy way – through words and not through actions. Swear words give us the opportunity to peak behind the curtain of someone’s heart and to see how they are processing. They can also be funny – and humor is a gift! Can swear words be a distraction? Oh one hundred percent. So can poor use of grammar. But if I know that my swearing will be offensive to someone I am face-to-face with, I don’t do it. I want this person to feel safe and seen by me. So I refrain. When it comes to my social media, I realize that people don’t have to follow me. I am strategic with the audience I am attempting to reach. That’s why I’m not censored. Not because I don’t care about the people who don’t like my cussing, but because I know that they can easily unfollow me (as many have) and follow people that are uplifting to them. Most of my followers aren’t being seen and heard by many other people – and they are my target audience.

Listen, I realize so many of you will poke holes in my blog today. And I’m fine with that. I didn’t write this as a way to talk you into or out of swearing. I am not defending myself. I am simply answering a question I get asked a lot, “How can you love Jesus and swear?” I guess the answer is pretty easy for me to answer: Jesus was a wordsmith. He was the most talented teacher, speaker there ever was. He understands the importance of words. And He knows words are simply words. And so I know I have the grace and freedom to express myself – and I’m going to live in that freedom…both to swear for those who need to hear it, and not to swear for those who don’t.

Love and peace.

Sebastian Scales: Child Molestation (Processing Trauma through Laughter)

Scar Stories: Kristen Howerton

I’ve been loving these interviews lately because we cover so many topics, I can’t give you a main theme. I so enjoyed my conversation with Kristen – we talked about purity culture, parenting, race, adoption, marriage, divorce, LGBTQ community, and so much more! I can’t wait for you to listen!

I devoured her book Rage Against the Minivan! Make sure to check out her website and follow her on social media!

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