I suck at book reviews. I always have. In High School I think my teachers gave me C’s because they felt sorry for my seeming inability to grasp the core meaning of any piece of literature. I remember one teacher calling me out by saying, “I am not convinced that you even read the book you are reviewing.” I mean, I skimmed it.
Still, when I read a book that moves me as much as Faith Shift did, I can’t help, but face those ghosts of High School past.
Kathy Escobar is a friend. Honestly, that might be the biggest reason I picked up her new book, “Faith Shift”. It only took me a few pages though to realize that what started out being a gesture of support for a friend was turning into an important experience for me personally.
There are a lot of great books out there that are aimed at disenchanted Christians looking for some place to land after leaving their former tradition behind. This is not that kind of book. Kathy names and affirms the space between the leaving and the landing–the Faith Shift.
When Nicole and I moved to Denver we were trying to leave a lot of baggage in Kansas. A large part of that baggage was our theological and doctrinal framework. Nicole was looking for a spiritual experience that didn’t come with a footnote of “But since you’re a woman…” I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for, but I knew it was going to be different than the largely conservative Evangelical experience I was leaving behind.
For reasons that we couldn’t always articulate, Nicole and I sucked at going to church after moving to Denver. We would hop from place to place, dipping our toes in, going for coffee with the pastor, being consistent for a few weeks, then dropping off the face of the earth.
I think Nicole felt ok with where we were, but I was struggling. I felt like I needed to fit in somewhere. Going to church had been implanted in my mind as one of those things you do if you love God, and don’t do if you are a heathen “backsliding” into the abyss of unbelief.
Honestly, it took me a while, lots of patient friends, lots of raw and honest conversation with Nicole, and lots of failed church experiments to finally admit what I was afraid to admit for so long–“I don’t really like going to church and I am totally ok with staying home every week.” I wouldn’t have been able to name it back then, but I was experiencing a faith shift.
In many ways Nicole and I are more authentically connected with ourselves, God, and a few communities of faith now because we finally had the courage to admit what was going on. I am currently a youth worker at a Church and I feel like going there is actually life giving, something I couldn’t say through many years of church hopping. As I look back, the scariest part of those shifting years was not knowing how normal it actually was–not knowing that Nicole and I were far from alone.
Faith Shift is such a unique book because it doesn’t try to point you toward your next stop as much as it seeks to affirm where you already are. Kathy uses her own experience, as well as the experience of several others, to offer a framework through which we can begin to feel a little less scared of the messy journey we find ourselves on.
Some people who find Kathy to be too liberal with her theological exploration will no doubt take issue with how affirming she is of people who just can’t do church right now–or maybe ever again. But others, including myself, will be compelled to simply say thank you. Thank you for having the courage to share so much of your own story. Thank you for having the wisdom to see the common threads in so many others. Thank you for being (for some) the first Christian who says “You’re OK” rather than “I’ll pray for you” when face to face with someone who is tired of faking an allegiance to what others say they should believe.
So, should you read Faith Shift? I will confidently say that you absolutely should if you are finding yourself in the scary place of no longer believing the things you are supposed to believe, if you are asking questions you are not supposed to be asking, or if you just feel disconnected from your faith system and don’t know why. If you are perfectly happy where you are, you can probably skip this book for now–but bookmark this blog so you can remember the name “Faith Shift” should you ever need it!