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. 

How do we reconcile our longing for the simplicity of the past with our new – and increasingly complex – perspectives? The allure of the known. The loss of familiarity. Nostalgia. Heartbreak. "Regret stacked up on grief..." None of it is comfortable when we find ourselves in the immediate fallout – the result of a hurt that's still lingering somewhere nearby, and still refusing to let us look away from the mess (or our part in making it).