In 2007 we moved just south of Seattle for three reasons. One, it was closer to the airport. (My husband traveled a lot for his work.) Two, it was closer to both our parents and our children. And three, there was a church there we wanted to get involved with. Our experience with this church was life changing in many amazingly good ways and one not so good. It’s a long complicated story and I can’t tell it without incriminating people. So I’ll just say, of the three church dissolutions we have experienced personally, this one was (for me) by far the most painful, damaging and confusing. We almost became Catholic.
My husband retired at age fifty-eight in October of 2010 and the next day we left for a three month adventure that started with the Camino in Spain. We traveled through Italy and Greece then drove across the Sinai desert in Egypt toward Israel. In Israel we found a prayer room. When the leaders of this prayer room asked us to come and be on staff with them, it was a dream come true for me. We spent the next three years traveling back and forth from the United States to Israel. It was while we were in Israel that the faith crisis that changed everything began.
One day my husband, bless his heart, said to me something like, “I’ve been thinking a lot about Christian Universalism… There are Christians who believe everyone will be saved.” And I was like, “get thee behind me satan!” But only in a joking way did I make the sign of a cross with two fingers and hold it up in front of myself to prevent the evil spirits that were influencing him from entering my own soul! That one remark of his sent me on a quest to find out as much as I could about these people who believed that God was more kind and merciful than I did.
My first exploration into what many evangelicals would call heresy was reading the book by Rob Bell called Love Wins. I loved that book. I didn’t see why so many evangelicals were so upset by it. Rob Bell asked more questions than he gave answers. I think then, I gave myself permission to ask questions. Besides, I liked this kinder, gentler God.
Around this same time I read Wm. Paul Young’s book, The Shack, which I loved. It was so refreshing. Reading it made God feel closer and more real. I didn’t know then, though, how much Paul Young would influence me in the future. And he definitely leans away from an Evangelical view of sin, the atonement, and the after life.
So it was sometime in the year 2011 that my disillusionment with the Evangelical church and the unsettling of my belief system began. At the ripe old age of fifty-eight I dove straight into Stage 4 of my spiritual development, which is defined as: “Individuative-Reflective Faith (mid-20’s to late 30’s). Angst and struggle. Taking personal responsibility for one’s beliefs and feelings. Openness to a new complexity of faith, increased awareness of conflicts in ones belief.” According to this research by James Fowler, I spent about thirty more years than I needed to in stage 3. Let’s not dwell on that. 😬