Episode 51, when I pressed record, I didn't know Joey, and Joey didn't know me; however, we were both open to seeing where the conversation went. Joey spent much of his life authentically engaging Christianity, but when doubt hit him unexpectedly, he entered a season of wrestling with who God is, and what that meant for him. He now considers himself an atheist, and when he dropped that nugget well into the episode, he added with a smile, "So am I the first on the podcast?"
This was a fun and valuable episode to record, and I hope you're encouraged no matter what you believe about God.
Episode 52 we hear from Aaron. Aaron hosts a podcast himself -- "Through the mirror" -- where he and two friends process a number of deep ideas, particularly around faith. What makes their podcast unique is that all three grew up engaging in the church, and all three have stepped away from that space; one identifies as an atheist, one as a pagan, and Aaron still identifies as a Christian, but is in a deep season of deconstructing his faith. While the wounds Aaron experienced from the church could have led him to "burn it all down", he instead has remained at the table, believing that God wants something better for us.
If you've been wounded by the church or by Christians, we hope this episode encourages you, because your story matters, and there is hope.
Episode 53 we meet Luke. Luke's church experience seemed normal to him; when he began meeting other Christians, he realized just how unhealthy his experiences had been. This -- along with his personal exploration of Christianity -- began to raise in him questions of the validity of Christianity and the God it speaks of.
Now identifying as an agnostic-atheist, Luke continues to process his understanding of life and spirituality; because of his desire for no one to have the negative experiences he had, he is creating spaces to ensure others who are questioning can do so in a way that they are seen, heard, and loved.
The question this raised for me: why did the church -- uniquely designed for such a task -- vacate that space?
If you have had negative experiences with churches or Christians, or are wrestling with questions around the validity of Christianity, we hope this episode is encouraging.
Episode 55 we meet Antonio. Antonio has been a part of a ministry since he was 5; first as a participant, and now as staff. At the age of 8 he had an experience that rocked his understanding of God and introduced him to the concept of "silence." In the decades since, he has felt that he has been standing at the door, knocking, and knocking, and knocking, with no answer. In the midst of a painful season, he still wonders, "will God answer?"
If you have felt the silence of God, we hope this episode is encouraging.
In episode 56 we meet Sarah Labriny, a gifted singer on the cusp of releasing her long-awaited EP. For most of her life she's tried to grow closer to God; simultaneously, she's experienced hit after hit after hit. Family struggles. A mystery illness. A car accident. In the hardest moments, Sarah found herself wrestling with depression and doubt about God. She felt hollowed out to the roots. However, her experience of God told her that He was not only with her, but that He would be strength again. If you've ever wrestled with depression, trials, or doubt, I believe Sarah's story will encourage you. I also believe her upcoming album will as well.
In fact, in this episode you get to hear an early clip from her song "Strength Again", as well as the story of how it came to be. Keep an ear out for the "Strength Again" EP this spring!
In episode 57 we're joined by Megan and Sherika, who host "The In-Between Podcast." There podcast is based on the concept of "the in-between" and "the Saturday," which represent that space between the crucifixion on Friday and the resurrection on Sunday. Maybe you've experienced the Saturday yourself; you know God has done a big work in your life, but instead of the transformation you expected you are immersed in trial. What do we do when we find ourselves in-between where we were and where we want to be? How do we understand and trust God when it seems he's abandoned us in a pit? How can the Church grow in navigating these all-too-common spaces?
If you're in a hard season, this episode is for you.
In episode 58, Christen -- a long-time friend and listener, and technically our first story -- share her story of discerning God's calling on her life. Have you wrestled with "calling"? We feel this pressure to figure out, name, and accomplish whatever we are supposed to do in life, but can find ourselves struggling when we hit obstacles or failure. What does God want us to do?
The truth is, He may actually have abundantly more in store for us.
In episode 59, Micalah shares the story of how a church she loved spending all her time at as a youth became a place she did not feel welcome, at least not unless she buried pieces of who she was and what she felt. The past few years have been difficult watching a place she loved become one that made her feel unloved, but she holds to hope that God wants -- and has -- better for us.
If you've ever felt like the church struggles to accept you or your opinions, Micalah's story may encourage you.
In episode 60, we hear from Rhonda and Mike, who have been going all in on seeking God, and have hit countless obstacles along the way. Maybe you've been there too: you've been living for God, only to find things falling apart or getting worse. What do you do in those moments?
Rhonda and Mike keep going. They know something about God that I think could encourage us.
As a bonus, they also have an immense amount of wisdom on what it looks like to really "love your neighbor". Take notes, because you'll have an opportunity to practice it today.
In episode 61, Josh Mozug and I process not just this season, but the broader topic of how the Church engages "questioning" and the invitation God may be giving us.
The fact this season even exists points to the reality that many people are wrestling with hard questions, and struggling to find a healthy, loving space to process that within the Church. If we are serious about living out the mandate to "love others", this just can't be.
While this season is ending, the invitation for anyone to share or process on the podcast remains open.
Episode 50 -- though technically the Season 3 finale -- is relevant to this dialogue, and is an episode I've wanted to record for years (though it was difficult). Throughout the course of this podcast, I find myself wrestling often with one question: "How do we know it's God we are hearing?" All around us we have voices saying, "God said this," and "No, God said that," or "This is what God wants," and often these voices conflict. Who's right? Are any of them right? How do we discern?
I was 100% opposed to doing this episode solo, but God gave a nudge, and I've learned to trust Him. In addition to exploring this question, there are apologies, there's advice, and there's hope. Let's keep learning to recognize His voice, together.
This season finale precedes Season 4, "The Questioning mini-series." This is a powerful season that makes way for questions we don't like to ask and don't like to answer, trusting that God can take it, and abundantly more may be waiting for us on the other side.