In starting a blog I decided it was relevant to explain where its title came from. My 41 years of life on this earth have seen me experience a very complicated and often painful journey with faith, religion, God and the relationships between authority and abuse. It has also taught me about the imperfect followers of these traditions who, in there well intentioned efforts to help, can unintentionally inflict devastating wounds.

My mom often tells me that I was at church the first Sunday after I was born. In the 21 years that followed I spent nearly as much time in religious activities as I did in educational, as for many of the years my religion and my education intersected.

I have many fond memories of running though the halls of Moody Church, in Chicago, where I spent the majority of my elementary school years. I loved the summers I spent at Moody’s Camp Moyoca where we attended week long summer camps, and my mom volunteered as the camp nurse. The church owned the camp long enough for my sister to return to Illinois and work there in the summers of her high school years, even once we had moved to Seattle.

I treasure the summer I spent with Teen Missions International, in 1997, when I traveled on a missions trip to India that holds a special place in my heart. It was the first time I left North America and I was given the opportunity to see the experiences of others were not been born into the standard of living I had never appreciated until that point.

There I met friends I cherish to this day and we bonded in the unexpected tragedy that led to the death of one of our team mates as we traveled on a train across the Indian countryside. For many of us it was the first time we experienced sudden death, and we did it far from home and in the confusing setting that blended questions of Gods goodness and how he allowed the tragic event to unfold.

I am thankful for the time I spent at Bodenseehof Bible School, and Capernwray Hall in year after my graduation from high schoo. It was here that I first wrestled through my dad’s unexpected revelation that he had previously been gay and gone through conversion therapy to become straight. I had been instructed not to tell anyone and was both confused and enlightened, as it started to make sense of the dysfunctional relationship I saw between my parents.

I spent countless hours in the school library digging through books on theology and debating with others who were similarly wrestling through issues of faith. I still treasure the friendships I made at this school, and it is in fact one of these friends who suggested that I start writing the blog you read now.

I am thankful for the education I received at a variety of Lutheran and Non-Denominational Christian schools I attended for the majority of my primary and secondary education. But along with the many amazing memories I have of these places of religious learning, I also have deep levels of trauma from things I was told by well intentioned, but fallible individuals who would confuse my relationship with religion and God.

It was not until my father first attempted suicide in the summer of 2001, and my own life plummet into alcoholism with the poorly arrived timing of my 21 first birthday, that I began to give up on the faith of my youth and walked away from the church, and from God, for several dark years. It was in 2006 that anxiety and depression broke into an almost paralyzed place that I reached out to God and began attending a Bible study with my sister and her mentor. It would take another year before I was ready to check myself into rehab and begin the first stage of my journey of recovery.

It was in these years that I encountered Alcoholics Anonymous and found both a new source of hope, but also a new set of dogmatic teachings. I was hurt by individuals who insisted that my failures to achieve results their way was due to my character defects that made me further question my own value and worth. Combined with a message I had received at home that I was the problem with my family, and a religious theology that centered heavily with an emphasis on the total depravity of man, I was weighed down with the belief that there was nothing redeemable within me.

In 2010 I made an unlikely friend who would change the trajectory of my life. He is Buddhist, and for reasons I will never understand, he was willing to stick by me through the next season of my life that would be the worst, yet make way for the best. What I found in his friendship was someone who walked alongside me, offered me encouragement, would not put up with my violation of his own boundaries, but also did not shame me when I often failed in my attempts toward change.

After my suicide attempt in 2011, he was one of the few who stood by me and had the patience and grace for my often emotional and chaotic season of early recovery. I was well intentioned but emotionally unequipped and often damaged relationships with people who did not understand the fragile state I was in.

It was in 2013 that with the safety of this friendship, and the support and mentorship that it offered, that I was able to walk away from organized religion, and organized recovery programs while holding onto both my God and my program. I finally had the space to turn down the volume of others opinions and listen to God for myself. I began to find the things that worked for me, and not be concerned with whether or not they worked for somebody else.

As the years have passed I found myself desiring the fellowship of other Christ followers and other alcoholics who share many of the same beliefs and experiences that I understand. I have healed to a point where the I can mostly tolerate the parts of structured religion and recovery programs that I agree with, without being destroyed back to the ground by disagreement on finer details that I now understand are not attacks on my personal value and worth.

In reapproaching the religion of my youth I discovered that it was not God, but the patriarchal values that were often the source of my pain. I discovered that the world that existed in the time of the Bible’s writing, and the interpretations of it that were held by the founding fathers of the faith were as imperfect as I am. I started to see that I could change the lens on the unchanging words of the book and find hope rather than condemnation.

It began to fuel a love for my savior rather than living in fear of a wrathful God who might smite me at every wrong move that I made. It is in the relationship with Jesus that I have found the peace, contentment, joy and hope that eluded me for much of my life. It is in that relationship that I now find my personal validation rather than on the imperfect people and institutions where I brokenly sought approval for so long.

I do not know how many more days stretch before me in this journey that we call life, but I am thankful for the path I am on and the challenges that have led me to this point. I remember being told that life is about 10% what happens to me and 90% how I decided to perceive it, and I have found this to be true with my experience of contentment. I am thankful for the journey that taught me the importance of changing my lens from time to time in order to make sense of the many situations I encounter along the way.