Lindsey and I love to shop at garage sales and thrift stores. We both grew up going to them, so giving new purpose to old pieces of furniture is a fun challenge and reward for us.
Our current kitchen table is a wooden corner booth, which originated either in a camper or a house boat. I’m guessing it’s from the 60’s. It’s small and has little water marks and pencil indentations on the top, but we love it. It’s got character.
Recycling and repurposing is one of the things we do best. The only thing I don’t really like to buy from our thrift shop is clothes. There’s no dressing room, and it’s a real inconvenience to have to take it home, see if it fits, and if it doesn’t, return the item for an exchange.
And the only thing worse than recycled clothes is thrift shop faith.
I haven’t written anything new in a while. I’ve republished old posts that did well in years past, when I was the Grace is Messy Guy, but I haven’t created new content in a while. I haven’t been sure of what to say.
I also think I have been so focused on self-care over the past year because self-care isn’t offensive. It also doesn’t require me to wax poetically about Jesus or God. I don’t have to use words like “destiny” or “faith” or “belief” or “plan” or “will” when I’m talking about things like meditation, medication, doctors, self-compassion, and breathing techniques. Self-care is pretty vanilla compared to something like exegeting Scripture. Anyone can appreciate and practice self-care. Christians, Buddhists, “nons,” you name it.
But to talk about Easter? The birth of Jesus? Good Friday? The rapture? Holy Week? God’s will? It makes my stomach hurt.
You know my story: Church rat. Born in the baptismal. Sang my first solo at 5. Children’s camp. Youth leader. Star student. Ministry school. Youth pastor. Worship pastor.
Church, church, church.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
And I believed it all. Even when I started having questions in my early twenties, I fought to continue buying everything I’d been sold for a very long time.
But I was only repurposing the faith of my parents and grandparents. I brought home a thrift shop faith and rather than taking it back and exchanging it for something that fit better, I thought it was too much trouble. So, for the first thirty years of my life, I held on to traditions and expectations that weren’t mine. They belonged to someone else and I was hell-bent on recycling those things and making them look better.
But when something just doesn’t fit, no amount of dressing it up will do.
I wish I could just accept things with “faith” and “because the Bible says so.” But that isn’t good enough for me any more. It just doesn’t cut it. I don’t buy it.
I’m not just talking about speaking in tongues or being “slain” in the Spirit. As I have mentioned in previous posts and podcasts, I’m asking things like:
To take it a step further, what if my parents and grandparents and most of my acquaintances are right? What if it is all true, but I can’t seem to make it fit my life? If I don’t believe it, then what? What happens to all these “promises” that have been made to me from the pulpit, week after week, all my life? Promises for the children of God?
The stressful part for me is the fact that I have no idea if I believe anything that marked my life for the first thirty years. And when your entire identity comes into question, when there’s a war within your own soul, when you are fighting against yourself, it’s no fun.
This isn’t a cry for help or attention. This isn’t about writing something controversial, just to get views (no matter what my brother thinks). This is just one person’s honest confession and a way to create space for others who are feeling quite stuck, too.
I see why so many Millennials have left the church. If they are feeling anything like me, of course they’ve left. There’s no dialogue. No chance to say, “but what about…?”
Our disbelief was gradual. Only 1 percent of Americans raised with religion who no longer believe became unaffiliated through a onetime “crisis of faith.” Instead, 36 percent became disenchanted, and another 7 percent said their views evolved.
There is no space to question or wrestle or doubt or punch holes in the walls. I need to punch holes in the walls, friends. Some people would call me a heretic. But what’s worse? A heretic or an unbeliever? A heretic or a Doubting Thomas?
And what do I do from here? Where do I go? Who can I talk to that doesn’t have some hidden agenda to try to “save” me or convert me to their brand of spirituality? Is anyone actually listening?
I can’t hide. I’ve held back on writing what I actually think because I live in the Buckle of the Bible Belt. But I’m not going to live from a heart of fear. I refuse. I did that for the first 28 years of my life, and it nearly killed me. I’m going to live from a heart of love. I’m going to accept myself.
This is the new leg of my spiritual journey. I don’t have it all figured out. In fact, I don’t think I have anything figured out any more. But this is my safe space. You are my people. And if, after reading this post, you decide you aren’t my people any more, that’s okay too. I hope you find peace for your own journey. I haven’t found it yet, but if there’s actually a Something in the Sky, I hope it is watching me and loving me and believing in me, or at least accepting me. Even when I wonder what I believe any more.
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
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