If you have question for Wayne, or would like to suggest a topic for the group in discussing this chapter, please post it here.
Recovery? We’re on a journey, yes, so we never wholly “arrive” in this life - I’ve got that. But, from the time that we finally leave a bound-up “church” and cast our lot with the non-managed Bunch, . . . . . . . . I don’t even know what the question is. Six months into the trip, and I’m just not nice and sparkly - nothing like A New Kind of anything. More like Paralyzed. Sometimes downright angry on the inside. Choking on some of the things I’m trying to think through and just can’t seem to spit out. When does New Kind become normal?
I want to start over. People are so critical of believers who say they wish they could go back to the time when they were first saved. Why, that’s just immature!, they will say — but that’s where I am. Jesus was so real then. Alive! A person, a person who’s really there with you. We looked to the Bible for the day-to-day stuff of life. We hadn’t been to seminary, yet: “Yes, we know it appears to say that, but what it really means is_________ .”
Letting go of “church” is still hard,though. We care about the people we left behind. Catch myself trying to find ways to fix things. I know I can’t be their Holy Spirit. But I think about the faith of the men who let their friend down through the roof to Jesus. The man needed help, and they did something.
Hi Beth. I think every one on this journey has been through similar phase of feeling like nothing is new. Somehow we thought the system we were in was bad and we could just find a better system to replace it. But the change has to happen in us so that we can help others see it as well. But it takes time for the renewing of the mind to take hold. We trade the freshness of relationship with Jesus for religious obligation, doing what we should do instead of knowing him. Reversing that takes some time. Our mind has to be rewired by his Spirit and it takes time to build the pathways that let us be in circumstances and not react in the old ways we’ve been taught.
I read this article recently and helped me se in scientific terms why this takes a lot longer than six months. I’ve told folks I think it mostly takes two or three years depending how steeped we were in religious thought and this article seems to suggest a reason why that might be true:
Good News: If You Keep Your Brain Active, It Will Continue to Grow Long Past Your 20s
BY DAVID EAGLEMAN FROM THE BOOK FROM THE BRAIN: THE STORY OF YOU
"Instead of arriving with everything hardwired, a human brain is shaped by life experience. It’s “livewired.”
Our brains’ flexibility derives not from the growth of new cells but from how those cells are connected. A baby’s neurons form two million new connections every second as they take in information. By age two, a child has over 100 trillion synapses—double the number an adult has.
"This peak represents far more connections than the brain will need. The incredible blooming is then supplanted by neural “pruning.” As you mature through the teen years and into your 20s, 50 percent of your synapses will be pared back.
"Which synapses stay, and which go? When a synapse successfully participates in a circuit, it is strengthened; synapses that aren’t used are weakened and eventually eliminated. Just as with paths in a forest, you lose the connections that you don’t use.
"By age 25, our brains appear to be fully developed. But even in adulthood, the brain can form new connections. London’s cabdrivers show just how impressive this can be. They undergo intensive training to pass the “Knowledge of London,” a memorization test of London’s extensive roadways: 320 routes, 25,000 individual streets, and 20,000 landmarks. A group of neuroscientists from University College London scanned the brains of several cabdrivers. Each driver’s posterior hippocampus— an area vital for memory, in particular spatial memory—had grown physically larger than the hippocampi of the control group. The longer a cabbie had been doing the job, the bigger the change.
“Similarly, everything you’ve experienced thus far has altered the physical structure of your brain. Your family of origin, your culture, your friends, your work, every movie you’ve watched, every conversation you’ve had—these have all left their footprints in your nervous system. As you age, too, your brain’s flexibility, and what you choose to expose it to, matters deeply.”
I think those new pathways we have to build is how the Spirit renews our mind. That’s why we can understand something with our head long before it becomes our default response in circumstances. As we keep (consciously) leaning out of the religious patterns we’ve been taught, to a Godly way of thinking, it will eventually become how we spontaneously act or think. But this process takes time and most of us are just too much in a hurry to find a solution, instead of joining Jesus on this journey.
It helped me understand this a bit. Maybe it will help others.
Wayne Jacobsen in Thousand Oaks, CA
How on earth could anyone think we merely evolved? That is fascinating! Thanks for the info!
Recently my wife and I took the step and we are no longer attending an organized church on Sunday mornings. It feels good but one thing I have noticed is that you have a good way of presenting what you believe without condemning and judging others who are still attending Churches at this time. I appreciate that. My wife and I are trying to leave graciously and quietly without making a big scene and making people feel like we are rejecting them or judging them in some way. Especially members of my wife’s family. Both of her parents are in the choir and my wife was too. And my wife’s youngest sister is the worship leader and Choir Director at the Church we left. I also was on a prayer team on Saturday mornings with the elders in this Church. We decided to buy 12 of these books and we are handing them out to people we care about and people we want to maintain relationships with instead of just leaving them hurt or confused. We think that if they read this book, they might not agree with everything and maybe none of it, but at least they can understand where we are at. Any other advice on how to present what we believe graciously? We know that others may not understand us and that that’s ok but for those close to us, we don’t want to damage relationships if you know what I mean. There is probably no easy answers to this but I would welcome your wisdom in this process we are in. Thanks.
HI Ron. I actually think it’s easier when we don’t make such hard-and-fast decisions. Once we decide to “no longer attend an organized church,” everyone else is put in a position to agree/disagree with us and relationships get confused pretty quick. These things seem to sort out better with gentle steps that let others into the process. I understand why you’ve made the decision you have, but maybe that is further than the Spirit needs. What if you were “just taking a step back” for a season because God has put some other things on your heart. It wouldn’t sound so final to others or so rejecting of what they find valuable. If they’ll read a book like FINDING CHURCH with an open heart, they might appreciate this part of the journey for you more. But it is a tough sell for many
How hard was it for you to make this decision? It has probably been brewing for some time and you went through a lot to finally bring you to this point. And you probably went through all that alone, so these people have no idea why you “suddenly” (in their view) are jumping ship. It will take some time for them to understand and find a relationship beyond it. Friendship will give them the time and make clear that this is a path you want to explore for a time, but still maintain their friendship. Hopefully they can allow for that, but many can’t. Not much you can do about that.
Thanks Wayne for your wisdom and advice. I had dinner last night with one of our elders and his wife and we had great fellowship together and sharing and our friendship is strong and in tact still. I also met with my father in law and another friend this morning for sharing and prayer. I gave each of them one of your books and they were excited about getting it and we had good time of sharing and prayer together. So I agree that I need to share this gently and over time and not abruptly and so final. I want to learn to affirm others who are not where I am at and be able to share where I am without the need for approval or understanding from others. It a balance that I know Jesus and the Spirit are really good at and so as I respond to the New Creation in me, His Spirit will show me how to keep relationships in tact.
I used the offer of an extra copy of Finding Church to give to some friends of mine, who say they are Christians and at one time, were like mentors to me when I was a ‘baby Christian’ and they were a little farther down the path. Well, I caught up and surpassed them, I call it ‘God’s growth spurt’, and I could tell that our paths, which were once the same, become widely divergent.
One of the main questions I was asked through this time was, “So are you attending church?” I could say yes for a time, then finally no, then the relationship changed to the point where evasiveness and lies were the order of the day.
I am still waiting for a response. I don’t know what they did with the book, but I am keeping an open mind and heart, realizing that they have to make the move, not me. It breaks my heart to think a mere building held the key to a life-long friendship. I hope not, but at this point, I suspect so. It’s been over a year now, probably the longest stretch I haven’t been in contact with them. My choice.
Sometimes change involves a hibernation/incubation process to protect what is there, or what is left. And it has been the most difficult thing I have ever done, but I know I am not alone. And that is a comforting thought. Its not so much a control issue, where the pendulum now swings my direction, but more of creating a level playing field of, let’s be brothers and sisters here, not teacher/student, or mentor/protege.
Awesome, Ron. That invites others into our journey. When we make final decisions, that others didn’t even know we were considering, it’s no wonder they feel left out of our lives. If we have invited people alongside us while we’ve struggled with things, or thinking of trying new things, they become part of the process with us and we honor them when we do that.
Thanks for the encouraging words, Wayne. From my end, it doesn’t feel as awesome as you see it, with the lack of communication from their end. I don’t feel that holding out, though, is a form of punishment, or that they may see the relationship is over. With the whirlwind of career, family, other relationships, and religious life, I’m afraid there is simply no margin in their lives left for me. I’m not saying that in a ‘woe is me’ way, but I don’t feel at this point I can reach out to them, without them having to make a sacrifice they simply don’t want to make. I might be wrong about this, but my heart and my instinct tells me this, it could very well be God’s leading as well. This certainly hasn’t been an easy thing, rather quite painful and heartbreaking.
And that may be true, but you’re giving them the maximum opportunity to include you and isn’t that all we can do? That’s what I meant about awesome. I was speaking about the process not the outcome. We cannot control the outcome. One of the great challenges for those of us who only had relationships among those who found comfort in religious systems, is that there isn’t room for the friendship when you are no longer a part. One of the great joys of this journey is connecting with others who have no such affinity. Yes, it takes time, but that means I spend very little time hanging out with religious people. I know have real friends and we allow each other to explore different ways of thinking as God shapes us. This is why the transition is painful. I get that. But the end fruit is pretty cool!