One thing I know for sure: healing takes a long, long time.
It's been not quite two years since we left a destructive theology. Six months later we moved across the country, decided to stay married, and wandered into a little Anglican church one Sunday morning. We are now in our second year of healing. As far as I can tell, the roots of damaging thinking have been pulled out of my life. I no longer cry when I hear them, the way I once did. I've rejected the idea of a temperamental, abusive god who is dangling us all over the pit of Hell - the "even when you're repenting, you're still sinning" god.
But while I have actively rejected the lies that once loomed over my life, I am surprised by how long it is taking me to embrace the Good. I still can't read theology, even good theology, the kind of thinking that draws us deeper into grace and thankfulness. I've been reading Marlena Graves' new book, and I struggled with the section on the gifts of desert experiences. I know what she's saying is true. Good does grow out of hardship, and recognizing God's fingerprints in our lives draws us deeper toward Him. I'm not denying any of it, but I have a hard time receiving it. I'm just not there yet.
Nor am I ready to articulate the good growing deep within. I listen to my friends talk about love and grace and peace all the time. I smile, I agree, but I am most often silent. I hear the certainty and conviction of younger friends, and I have nothing to offer in response. I just can't fit my thoughts or experiences into a three point argument any longer. I can hardly open my mouth without first thinking of every counterargument, every opposite point and the hundred different people who could make it better than me.
While I've left harmful theology behind, it is clear I'm not yet ready to engage - online or in real life - in meaningful conversations about God. Because healing takes a long, long time.
But week after week I show up anyway. I sit in the liturgy, I surround myself with loving people, sometimes I pray. I reject the lies, I ask for grace for those who perpetuate them, I remember the deep, passionate faith of my youth. And I wait.
Healing is both active and passive. It requires a conscious act - a will to press forward, a decision to leave, a forward movement to cling to what is good - yet it is not fully ours to control. I teach my kids that whether you see a doctor or experience a spontaneous regeneration, all healing comes from God. Our bodies are constantly moving toward decay, and any sign of fresh life within them can only come from the Source of life itself. The same is true of spiritual healing. I make conscious decisions to be healthier, but I cannot create new life within me. I do my part, then I wait for it to grow.
But it is growing. I feel those tender green roots moving in the places no one can see. I catch it in glimpses - a moment of gratitude, the ease of catching my breath, a deep compassionate connection. In the mountains on the horizon, a dinner with friends, a familiar hunger for God's kingdom. I am growing, God is growing within me. Silent, nearly imperceptible, but steady. I am becoming a new creation.