Finding Church Finding Church

A Pharisectomy in Progress

Posted on: February 12th, 2015 by Wayne Jacobsen 30 Comments

tunnelReligious obligation is the most heinous of bondages. While it purports to offer us a way of life, it actually strangles us with our own good intentions. Finding our way out of it is not an easy of quick process as this email attests. Julie has begun a different journey to encounter the love of God that her 52 years of faithful religious engagement did not provide. Like many, she’s partway into that process and as you’ll see feeling quite disoriented. Her old patterns no longer work and she isn’t yet comfortable seeing God’s work unfold.

Is it normal? Of course it is. When God begins our pharisectomy, it am be incredibly disorienting. It can feel like detoxing and in many ways it’s exactly that. Let’s see if we can help Julie sort some of this out:

My husband and I are coming out of the waves of religion. It has been going on in me for 13 years now. The blatant stuff is gone, I’m guessing it’s now down to the stuff stuck in the bowels of my mind. I used to pray that God would take His double-edge sword and cut down through the bones and the marrow to divide the soul from the Spirit. I think that’s what he is doing though it looks much different than I had imagined.

I too am a recovering Pharisee. I was really good at it. I was an ultimate performer and striver as I exerted my strong will to be the best of the best for 21 years. I grew up in the church, I heard all the stories on flannel graph, memorized the scriptures, learned the books of the Bible. I was studious to the point that I did 2 Beth Moore Bible studies at one for fear I would miss something. I was going to KNOW God.

I have been coming out of that for a few years now.. and I see so much wrong I believed. I now understand that I am crucified with Christ and that I no longer live. I have absolutely no desire to prove anything anymore. That has been stripped from me. I have no desire to perform or strive. I haven’t been in “church” for five years and I have no desire to go back and sit under sermons that try to mix the old with the new. I have a great deal of exposure into this new covenant living and am soaking it up. I now know it is all about Christ living in me and what Christ did and has done and will do through me. I know it is not my life but His in me interwoven together as one.

I want to believe I am currently in a transition phase… that the dark night is just before the dawn. I feel so very lost and uncertain. I have dropped everything I used to do—journaling, praying, reading the Bible, attending church, and writing (a great love of mine). In the midst of this I find myself feeling so very gutted to the point that it feels hard to know who I am. People talk about coming to grips with this amazing love of God. I have always known of God’s love. As a babe I heard the song, “Jesus loves me this I know”. As an adult I was told, “For God so loved the world that He gave His son.”

I KNOW God loves… but I’m not sure I have really encountered it. Before all these last few years of this hard part of the journey I would have told you I had experienced the love of God. Maybe I had brief encounters with it. But here in this gutted place I don’t feel it or know it like I once thought I did. I find myself wondering if all of my religious living numbed me to the experience of His great love. I grew up in church abd was there for 52 years. I did all the things I was supposed to do for the most part. I was a decent person who did the “work” of the church life. I never had a profound encounter with God. I played at the church game until one day in my early 20’s (after a relationship ended) I begged Him to love me. I needed Him in my life. I felt Him come. Immediately after I was swept up into a “discipleship” program that put me on the performance wheel. It’s where I stayed until the early 2000’s.

Sometimes I wish I had an encounter like a drug addict whom God rescued. Then I would have a profound encounter with love. Instead I was a Pharisee. It’s hard for a Pharisee to see that she is a wretch because she do so much right, so much good in the name of Christ. It’s hard to see an encounter with love. All I know is that something “feels” detached inside me. I can’t connect to the emotion of the love of cross and the resurrection, personally. I know the story, I believe it all. I know I received a new life and my sins were forgiven. I am thankful for what Christ did, but something is off in me. So much of the story of the cross I was told was about sin. Not much emphasis was given on love. Did performing and striving do this to me? Truth is it’s hard for me to SEE a rescue… after all I did SO much.. Am I making any sense? Is it hopeless for me? Have I ruined myself? I’m so very afraid.

But now at least I know that I cannot make it happen. I am at the mercy of God to reveal and change and awaken. I don’t know anyone I can talk to about this. I have no one that can encourage me or steer me or tell me truth. My husband sees me in a transition and that it is going to be good. I can’t see anything but void. I believe in Jesus. I believe in God. I believe He died on the cross and rose again. I hope that’s enough right now because it’s all I have. I’m angry at the realization that so much of what I was told has not been true. I’m struggling to know what is true.

You are a recovering Pharisee. Is this part of the journey? Is there a darkness before a dawn? Did you always know how loved you were? I was told by a man I trust that this performing can hide love. I’m quite scared that I am lost forever.

If I could say one word to you, Julie, it would be relax! Your mind is racing a hundred directions right now worried about outcomes you can’t possibly see at this point. I know it is scary. I know it is incredibly disorienting to move out of a religious framework and go on a better journey. All your perceptions are set on an old paradigm and as that shifts this kind of season is incredibly normal. Yes, people on that email list would easily relate to what you’re going through. Most of them have been or are going through it now. This is a journey and learning to perceive Father’s love in our hearts outside our religious securities takes some time. You’ve got to de-fox from all the illusions you’ve been taught to live by and your feelings will seem to betray you in this season. But they are not. You may not feel things the way you’re used to, but the hungers you’re experiencing will lead you into a far more spacious place. Father is at work here. Don’t worry about what isn’t yet. Embrace what is. Try not to look too far down the road, just rest as well as you are able in what you know to e true of the Father and his love for you. The truth has not changed. He’s leading you to a better place to not only see it, but to experience it.

Relax, my dear Sister! And yes, I know that is far easier said than done. But God is not in the frantic or the fears. That’s where religion kept us captive. You are now moving outside of them and how can that not be disorienting, confusing and even feeling like you’re in a void…

But you are not. What better place to be a than at the mercy of a Father who loves you more than any one on this planet every has or ever will?

Embrace the journey. Embrace the changes. Let fear and expectations drain away as God draws you closer to his heart. You’ll look back some day and understand this season so much better than you possibly can today. For now, just put all your eggs into HIS basket. “Father, let me know you as you really are today,” is a good prayer. Don’t worry too much at this point about understanding the past or trying to guess at the future. Just rest in whatever bit you see of him today and watch how this all unfolds to lead you into a place of greater freedom and security than you’ve ever known.

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30 Responses

  1. Jeff Monroe says:

    Awesome conversation. So authentic. God is so big. His love for us grows and we trust Him more. He is a kind coach.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Hi Julie, I turned 50 in November my journey like yours started back in 2010 when the Lord had me sit down from everything I was doing at the church I was attending. One of the hardest things I ever had to do. My identity was wrapped up in what I was “doing” for Him instead of just being in Him! Let me encourage you, you are probably in the best place you have ever been in your walk with Him. I know it’s hard to see now, but believe me you will. He does not let us down. When we are stripped of everything that we thought pleased Him and it’s just you and Him, then you realize just how much you are loved. A scripture He often brought to my remembrance was Perfect Love cast out all fear! It was really scary not going to church and not “doing” anything for Him. One quick story I will share with you. We were visiting this one church back in 2011 (because I just couldn’t stay home on a Sunday)when worship started I started going through my steps; you know, I clapped, Holy Spirit said why are you doing that, I raised my hands, Holy Spirit said why are you doing that, I started praising out loud, speaking in tongues, singing, Holy Spirit said why? By the end of these quick questions I was in tears. He then said, just stand and BE my daughter!! It about broke me and was so freeing!! Really Lord??? that’s all and you love me!! Wow! and so the journey began. We are still not in a church but I have learned how to Be the church any where He has placed me and He has just released me to be a part of a women’s connect group, which just happened out of the blue and not in a church! Imagine that, Holy Spirit finds us:) I’m not against going to church, this is the journey He has my husband and I on now. I pray this helps you and please, please know that you are not alone!!! You can email me anytime and I’m on facebook. Have a wonderful evening! I hope you read this:) Thank you Wayne for posting!

    • Jewelz says:

      Stephanie, Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am so very grateful. I totally understand as I have not been in church for 6 years now. It is where I have needed to go. I do not believe all the religious stuff would have been exposed for what it was in me had I not stepped away. Thank you for reminding me that I am not alone. It matters!
      Julie (also known as Jewelz)

  3. Very thankful for this blog post. Describes my last 16 years…precisely! I am full of gratitude for this posting. I did not know that what I have been experiencing for 16 years was even similar to anyone else’s struggle! I was in the bondage of an Old Covenant law church for 40 years…that law truly does kill. My health has deteriorated very much. Condemnation and the resulting shame are real culprits! The “shoulds” have dogged my trail ever since leaving that church in 1998.

  4. Carina says:

    A lot of what Julie says strikes a chord in me. Except my situation is perhaps worse. I got so tired of this religious game that I have almost lost my faith and love towards God altogether. And yes, there are lots of us in this situation, looking for a way out and wondering, what’s the point?

    • Lindy Combs says:

      Carina, So true for me too! When I learned that religion (man’s ideas about how to seek God), was all I had been **doing** I found that I was in an empty vacuum, just floating. Having learned that God loved me so intimately…no matter if I did or didn’t do anything, I quit caring if I did ANYTHING…honest that is the truth. I didn’t even wash my dishes for a week!! I was THAT burned out. That revealed to me the core motivations that I had EVER had. I was so humbled to see my true heart. That motivated me…I was compelled…to get into Wayne’s messages. I have been very thankful……. That devil has an objective to wear…us…out. But we still have the choice. Be blessed, my sister. You are highly favored, greatly blessed, and deeply loved. 🙂

    • Jewelz says:

      I totally understand your words. I have felt through this time as if I have lost my faith too. I have screamed at God like never before. I’ve struggled with even the thoughts of wondering if He is real, if anything of this is real. I too felt as if I have lost my feelings towards Him. After all I was the girl who sang, “give me one pure and holy passion, give me one magnificent obsession, give me one glorious ambition for my life to know and follow HARD after you” with tears streaming down my face. How could I have such “passion” and then feel so very “empty”.. Where did the passion go? Life was HARD yet I couldn’t stop believing in Him. Yes, I wondered if it all was real and struggled at times to believe. But I kept coming back to the reality that I so desperately wanted Him to be real because I wanted to belong to Him. Maybe it’s not our faith that we are losing but our idea of faith. Thank you for sharing here. It matters so much to me!

      • Carina says:

        Thank you so much for your kind words. Again, I can so relate.
        I’m taking my time now, not pushing myself to go through the motions because what’s the point of following God if it’s not out of love and true faith?
        The funny thing is, a lot of times I dream about attending my last church. Spiritual hangover, maybe. A part of me misses it. But even if I tried to come back, it wouldn’t be the same. How can you put the veil back on when it’s been removed? And yet, it’s like those “curses” people speak on you, that you’re backslidden, they seem so real. But I know my backsliding is not about not attending a physical place. No, it’s more about not being connected to the Source of Life, and it doesn’t help to be isolated from other true worshipers.
        I used to be so zealous… And yet I was a self-righteous, judgmental person. At least in that respect it seems to me I have grown.

  5. Jeri says:

    Yes, and Yes! I agree with it all. The church does a great job of making us wonderful doers but not wonderful be-ers. The good Lord wants us to be ready to die to our self, to stop fleshing out on our relationships. He wants to strip us of everything we know and be His. In reading Oswald Chambers, Watchman Nee, Andrew Murray, George MacDonald, CS Lewis, Phillip Keller and others, they demonstrate through their words that we need to undo the religion of the day, and just be His. There is so much freedom in stepping away from Pharasitic ways, but to be in commune with the Lord completely, it is necessary. The book Life after Church helped me see the need for the Holy Spirit as well as the many teachings of Marilyn Howshall.

  6. Letz says:

    Hang in there Julie! We’re out here….going through the same detox process, and “sharing in the sufferings.”

    • Jewelz says:

      Thank you, so much Letz! It’s nice to know there are other sojourners here and that I’m not crazy!

      • Jewelz says:

        I cannot thank you all enough for the responses and kindness you have shown to me. I am so very grateful just to have other people share their stories. It has been a lonely, lonely road.

        Blessings to you all,
        Julie (also known as Jewelz)

  7. Jewelz says:

    Thank you for posting this. Thank you for your words of response written back. There’s not enough said about this transition. It can be a lonely place. I am grateful for your insight.

  8. Jim says:

    Julie if you read this I would just like to let you know that what you’re experiencing is very similar to my own journey and I have found that as I live in the moment one day at a time I’m finding Him more present with me now that I am no longer struggling to continually find Him and just resting in His goodness, just relaxing with Him enjoying the moment. I’m experiencing the reality of His faithfulness to complete the work He started in me. Trust what He is doing in your life even if you don’t understand it. It is scary at times but it is also exciting to know that He has our backs as we travel this new journey with Him. As you continue on I know He will continue to illuminate your path, because He has done that for me. Take all the time you need to heal. It’s not something you make happen, you just let it happen. Your mind has been programmed over years. Renewal is an ongoing process. Just continue to believe it not only will happen but is taking place right now as you live out each day. He loves you so much and He’s more than happy to spend whatever time is necessary to restore you to wholeness of mind, body and spirit. Good on you as you take this exciting journey into your authentic self. A fellow traveler.

    • Julie says:

      Your words and your story mean so much to me! Rest is about all I have the will to do. If this gig isn’t up to Him doing what is needful then I’m sunk! It encourages me so much to hear from people on the other side of this precipice! I am grateful for your response!

  9. Toby Perks says:

    Dear Julie,
    You are so on the right track!I am reminded of Watchman Nee’s book The Normal Christian Life”.One section that caught my attention was in the ‘dark night, resurrection morn’. Nee says only God knows how long that actually is in our time. He says rather than trying to do things: “It will seem as though nothing is happening; as though everything you valued is slipping from your grasp. There confronts you a blank wall with no door in it. Seemingly everyone else is being blessed and used, while you yourself have been passed by and are losing out. Lie quiet. All is in darkness, but it is only for the night…Afterwards you will find that everything is given back to you in glorious resurrection and nothing can measure the difference between what was before and what is now!”
    May I also point out what Paul said we are in what I describe as “contagious Christ”? “In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.

    This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on? No—but at least we don’t take God’s Word, water it down, and then take it to the streets to sell it cheap. We stand in Christ’s presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can.” (2.Cor:14-17 ‘The Message’)

    • Julie says:

      I am so grateful for your words! Yes everything has been removed to the point that I have difficulty believing the gifts I once had been given still remain in me. I was a writer who loved to tell the parables that He gave to me, beautiful word pictures downloaded in my mind. They are for the most part gone as are so many other things. Your words about how things will return in glorious resurrection touches a spot inside me. Thank you for your words! They matter!

  10. Diane says:

    I can relate with what Julie is saying. I’ve been a part of a religious organization for 42 of my 52 years. The last 10 years have been ones of learning to relate with God apart from the ways I’m used to. I grew up with the flannel Bible stories, Sunday school, you-name-its, everything that we were taught we needed to be and do, to believe and be involved in to help our “christian walk”.
    I enjoyed your response, Wayne, as it spoke to me as well. I am more relaxed now, just going with God’s flow, but every so often, especially when conversing with staunch church-goers, the old fears rise up and I’m very uncertain of this journey. Good to be reminded again that this journey is a day to day journey into the reality of God’s love.

  11. Andrew Friesen says:

    I can relate to this so much! I now realize that I was in this even before I became a christian (over 35 years). My fear & depression actually intensified after I found Christ. Years ago I heard a song that spoke of “nagging optimism.” Paul talked about fears within but having a feeling that everything would be alright even though it seemed irrational.

    Finding Wayne has been wonderful and I am fully convinced of the truth of much he says but somehow it has been hard to apply for me.

    I have been getting good results with letting my fears go with the Sedona method. I hope it isn’t just the placebo effect! =) I have always found that when my fears go my trust in God skyrockets.

    • Andrew Friesen says:

      Yes, the Sedona Method effect only lasted for a short time.

      How long does it take to trust Jesus alone?

      Does the parable of the widow and unjust judge ever apply to me.

      • Hi Andrew. Most human-effort methods have short-term results. Learning to trust Jesus is a lifetime process that he accomplishes in us. He is the “Author” and “Finisher” of our faith. The more we are won into his love through growing, tangible relationship with him, the more we’ll learn to trust him. It’s a day to day journey that is the fruit of knowing him. And I doubt in this age we’ll ever trust him “alone.” That’s all of our hope, obviously, but we know in part and see in part, so we’ll find ourselves at times trusting others, ourselves, human wisdom, and a hundred of other things, but when they fail us, it draws us back to trust him more deeply. Ask him to show you. He will!

  12. Lindy Combs says:

    In a word: Ditto! Bet you had not planned to be such a blessing!!! This you wrote is me too: “I want to believe I am currently in a transition phase… that the dark night is just before the dawn. I feel so very lost and uncertain. I have dropped everything I used to do—journaling, praying, reading the Bible, attending church, and writing (a great love of mine). In the midst of this I find myself feeling so very gutted to the point that it feels hard to know who I am.”

    I have felt as if I am in a distant orbit after being “Madam Pharisee”…oh yeah, uh-huh!! No one to connect with, just people who wanna fix.

    Everything you have shared is the same thing I have been wanting to write to Wayne about…and say the very same things. It is so amazing…the sameness! I have been so numb in learning that I have been soooo wrong! You have made a huge difference.

    Thank you for your testimony. It is also mine.

    ~ Lindy Combs

    • Julie says:

      It does my heart good to have another on this road who gets what I am dealing with. Thank you for your words and the gift of your story. I think one of the hardest parts of all this is feeling so brainwashed. How could this have been so distorted for me all these years? Now I understand the veil that Hebrews talks about. There’s an old Diana Ross song that plays through my head often. “I’m coming out, I want the world to know, gotta let it show.” “There’s a new me coming out.” “And I just had to live” “And I wanna give” “I’m completely positive” “I think this time around I am gonna do it like you never knew it” “oh I’ll make it through” “the time has come for me to break out of this shell.” “I have to about that I am coming out”. I’m coming out from under the veil. I’m trust it will be like nothing I’ve ever known before …. Thank you again for sharing! It matters!

      • Lindy Combs says:

        Julie, I cherish this divine connection. You truly spelled out my path. Yes, the feeling of being brainwashed…believing all the lies to be truth, i.e., I could not matter unless I could get it right, all from law-based mentality; I was a walking cauldron of turmoil and shame. I am just learning what “living loved” is all about. “Pharisectomy” is the perfect word for our journey, coming out, like the song by Diana Ross. Thank you, precious sister!

      • Lindy Combs says:

        Hello Julie,
        I have been so very hungry to fellowship with someone who relates. What I have been going through is so disturbing. I would like to know if it is part of the journey…or am I a reprobate? I feel such a vacuum within. Do you suppose we could email? Perhaps Wayne could help us connect? I became so very isolated in searching for a church where the fruit of the Spirit would be obvious…then I sought a house church. On the island where I live, there is not an actual Organic Church.

        • Jewelz says:

          I would love to email back and forth. Wayne, would you please connect us via email? Feel free to give Lindy my email address.

          • Lindy Combs says:

            Yes indeed. I want to email…and possibly even phone visits…or Skype. You and I are practically spiritual “twins”. Haa! Wayne, will you help us connect?

  13. […] the last blog, A Pharisectomy in Progress Julie shared about being so disoriented in the process of learning to live in the new creation. It […]

  14. Toby Perks says:

    “Finding Church” throws up more questions than it answers, precisely because it is not a ‘how to’ manual! What it does do, is point to the overwhelming marvel that is that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God and THE ANSWER! Finding that out impacts everything and enables us to fathom out what is HIS church, body and bride. WOW!

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