Pretty much everything comes to an end, but grief can be persistent. For some of us, it remains a constant companion despite how much it might subside. And that's because it's not purely an internal thing. Grief is also outside of us – something we cast like a shadow, with a shape that serves as its reminder. It tells us where we've been. It tells us who we've been. It tells us why we changed in the first place. 

It's okay to demand your own right to live deliberately and listen to what truly reaches you. To some degree, we're all flying blind. None of us knows much of anything. And fear does not make the core questions go away. It just hides them, turning the wellspring of any inspiration and wonder they might have carried into a stagnant pool of cynicism and disillusionment. A persistent thread of doubt is worth pulling on. It might just lead us somewhere better. Or it might even lead us back with a new perspective that makes everything we've known real and meaningful for the first time. But it starts with saying "no" to the fear, and everything else that manipulates and reduces us. 

If you think about it, virtue can be even more significant when it's detached from religious order or lawful observance. Goodness is truly remarkable when the person displaying it doesn't believe it factors into any sort of endgame or grand scheme. When people just live and move in goodness because it's good, and that's enough for them, that's actually pretty damn beautiful. Because, if nothing we do matters, then really all that matters is what we do.

If you ever happen to go through a season of dramatic change, some people will simply refuse to take you seriously. They'll dismiss you, talk down to you, or otherwise treat you as though you've changed flippantly. Often, they will explain their perspective to you, as though the only reason you now disagree with it is that you don't understand it. When you change, people will quickly forget that you used to hold to the same views they still hold to. 

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. That's what they say are the "five stages of grief." It's a good list. But the idea that such a world-shattering process could ever be neatly labeled or easily digested really does a disservice to communicating what a mess the actual process is. Stages of grief cycle back and repeat, or a bunch can occur all at once, or in the span of minutes over a heavy conversation. It's a frantic world of emotional rock bottom.

Tragedy is hardest on those left behind to remain in its wake. Sickness, death, loss... It is what it is. And even though all of these things affect every one of us, they never stop feeling alien. They never stop feeling like they've intruded on what should have been. We are sentimental, idealistic and romantic creatures of community. Our connections might sever, but they always remember the connection which used to be. 

A lot of us know what it can be like to raise the sort of questions about church and faith that most other believers seem unwilling to ask... Whether we're seeking clarification over some clearly poisonous idea, or challenging the integrity of a certain theological belief, or even just bringing up a biblical "elephant in the room" that is being avoided... Many of us have seen a similar result in how Christians respond or react to us: Fear. Shame. Gaslighting. Loss of trust. Loss of position. Loss of our voice within a community... Our expressed doubts are so often not met with comfort and embrace, but instead with painful separation. 

IT'S A CHRISTMAS SURPRISE! BONUS EPISODE! We gathered for a mid-season 1 special episode and ended up talking for 2 hours. The first segment we're making available here is an introduction to that conversation, and a way for us to introduce our listeners to who we are as a team. We discuss what we hope to be doing with the podcast, and what makes us excited for the community we're seeing built.

We find ourselves living within the stark contrast. The new normal. The bottom of the pit after a long fall. We find ourselves at a time when all the dynamics we've known have shifted, and we begin to feel truly alone, whether in the vertical dimension, the horizontal dimension, or in both... It's that place of deep reckoning, where we begin to experience newfound empathy for those who've gone through it all before us. And it's the place where the seeds of newfound defiance are sown, where we cry out from the ragged edge as if to say, "I'm still here, breathing."

The failure... and the fallout. The biggest surprise that comes with wrecking your life as you knew it is often how eerily quiet the aftermath can be. You almost wish everything about it would be more epic – that your existence could be scored and edited like a film, or that your external world would feel more visceral and more loud to echo the turmoil inside... But pain can be so very silent. And suffering so very magnified by the stillness imposed in time's absolute refusal to fast forward. Grief can be at its worst when it's... mundane.

The loss of identity is a staggering thing, but we've learned to expect it... sometimes. Still, any a process of metamorphosis, newly shaping who we are, is not an easy one. Even if we know we should expect it. So how much more staggering is the unintended and unexpected identity crisis? For so many Christians experiencing doubt and grief over a loss of faith, this has become their reality. There's this new and constant companion with them – an alien presence in their lives who turns out to be themselves.