Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Faith Shift - Kathy Escobar

Faith Shift
Title: Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe Is Coming Apart
Author: Kathy Escobar
Publication Date: 10/21/14
Pages: 240
Genre: Faith / Nonfiction
How I Found It: Rachel Held Evans recommend on her blog or social media or something at some point.
Date Completed: 2/25/17

Summary: Escobar explores the process of a shifting faith - what happens when you begin to have doubts about your faith or, at least, aspects of it.

What I Thought: I have previously shared some of my struggles with the church and my faith history here. In particular, I raved about Rachel Held Evans' book Searching for Sunday and how much it spoke to me. So, a book like this one feels natural and relevant to this conversation.

I did not totally know what to expect when I picked this one up. I guess I was expecting something more memoir-esqe. In the vein of Sarah Bessey or Evans or Jen Hatmaker. Escobar, instead, takes a more psychologically analytical approach. She breaks down the process of shifting faith and what that often looks like for people. She includes only a little personal backstory or experience. There is enough there to validate her knowledge of such things, but not so much as to make you feel like she's your new best friend (as it feels with some of the other authors I mentioned). 

The first half of the book really hit home for me. Escobar talks about the three stages of Fusing to your faith, which are basically the first twenty years of my life in a nutshell. It's life as the evangelical church expects from its members. More poignantly, though, the Shifting stage felt so familiar. Nearly every bullet point describing that stage was one with which I could relate. Understanding the process now, I can definitely say I have been Shifting for a while....years, in fact.

The second half of the book, however, felt much more foreign to me. According to Escobar, after Shifting, one either returns to their faith, or goes deeper into the shift, often severing completely with their faith or coming out the other side very changed, but retaining some elements of their original faith structure. She's very clear that this looks different for everyone. This is where I struggled more. I could not relate as much, because I am not experiencing those things. At times, I felt Escobar was too comfortable with tossing out certain truths (to which I'm sure she'd hug me and remind me this process plays out differently for everyone). Still, it really helped me understand better some of the people I love who are further down this road from myself. 

I learned a few things. First, I'm not alone in the Shifting. It feels very lonely sometimes, especially when everyone around you seems so certain and so "Fused." One man Escobar quoted said he "didn't know how to navigate the conversation when he was the only one on a different page. He was Shifting, but no one around him was." Man, could I relate to that. It's hard to have transparent conversation about this stuff when people just don't understand what you're talking about or why you're struggling with certain issues. A reminder to myself to not be that person to the people further on this pathway than me. Second, I realized this state of Shifting is not one that should be interminable. At some point, the conflict within seeks resolution and a choice must be made. What stays, what goes, what does the reconciled faith look like. I'm not sure how that resolution will play out for me yet, but I feel better equipped to understand and traverse the journey.

The biggest thing I struggled with is that Escobar advocates seeking out your new truth in ways apart from the Bible or the teaching of the church. Now, don't get me wrong, I can completely relate to feelings of wanting to run from those things at times. I also do see value in worship and spirituality experienced in more unique ways. However, I think looking to those individual experiences exclusively makes you incredibly vulnerable to making your own truth out of whatever feels good or right. I don't believe that's how it works. I believe there is absolute truth and it doesn't always feel good. I really do understand the struggle and dichotomy here, but I wish Escobar had a more spiritually substantial solution to offer.

I really appreciate that this book gave me the tools with which to step back and examine my faith journey anew. I certainly did not agree with everything Escobar said, especially as I got further into the book. To me, though, this was a great example of and exercise in listening to people who have had different experiences than my own. Each person's walk with God and their faith journey is their own. While we do play a role as brothers and sisters in Christ, I want always to be someone who shows Christ's love first. This was a good reminder for me of that. I want to love as He loves. Understanding people and their emotional, spiritual journey better is a good place to start. 

Quotes I Loved: 

  • "The truth is, growth and change are natural parts of our relationships with God. God invites us to be in motion, but often the faith systems we are part of don't."
  • "I want less religion in my life and more justice, mercy, purpose, and love. I want to feel connected to God, to others, and to the deep places in my soul and not to doctrinal statements or weekly programs. I want to use my gifts without needing to ask permission. I want to feel more alive. I want to feel freer."
  • "We want to be with people of all shapes, sizes, and beliefs and learn from each other. We want to live in the tension of our differences instead of squeezing them out or having to choose sides."
Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised. It's a good resource
If You Liked This, Try: Searching for Sunday / Out of Sorts / For the Love

A Reduced Review: In Escobar's examination of faith shifts, I found both validation for my own experiences and a better understanding of those of others. 

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