Slow Recovery

Nobody likes a slow recovery. We much prefer overnight success, a moment of conversion, a quick-n-easy fix. And on top of that, we’d like a 100% guarantee.

But for things that are truly broken, there is no immediate solution. There are no guarantees.

I told him I didn’t feel like I loved him anymore. It was the truth.

But I’m hopeful, with time, those feelings will come back.

Yes, it’s going to take time.

One of the first things they teach you in 12-step programs is to take your sobriety one day at a time. You can’t rush recovery. You can’t push it.

Similarly, when I was practicing yoga, I remember my teacher saying that yoga isn’t a competition. You shouldn’t be hurting yourself. Your body needs gentleness and slowness.

This is such a different philosophy for me. I am all go-go-go. I am all push and drive and hell yeah, we can DO this thing. On the one hand, this is a good thing. I’ve benefitted from discipline and self-control. But I also really need balance. I need to slow down, pause, breathe, sit in a coffee shop for hours doing nothing.

I need to nap.

I need to slack off.

I need to get serious about having fun.

I need to read books.

It took me 4 months to read The Ragamuffin Gospel because I could not bear “the beams of love.” I had to read so slowly, savoring each page because my soul didn’t know how to receive that kind of relentless, unconditional love. I had to expand into it.

I finally finished the book a couple nights ago and I just lay on my bed, staring up at the ceiling for a long time. Love like that seems too good to be true, I thought.

But why do I think that? Why don’t I believe God loves me unconditionally?

I thought about this for a long time. And then I realized:

I don’t believe God loves me unconditionally because love doesn’t feel like love to me unless I’m being punished.

This is an embarrassing thing for me to admit. But this is how I’ve lived my life. As if I don’t deserve happiness. As if I don’t deserve to feel good.

So, I keep punishing myself because punishment is all I deserve.

Oh, I have so misunderstood grace!

And I think this is the beginning of my second journey–that from now on I’ll be living into grace. It will be like traveling in a foreign country, learning a second language. It will be a slow journey, I think. Because recovering from fundamentalist thinking takes time.

In fact, it may take the rest of my life. But at least I know where I’ve been. By God’s grace, I’ll never go back.

Forward into love, forward into grace. One tiny, itsy-bitsy step at a time.

Are there other areas of life where recovery is a SLOW process?


  • Ami

    I have taken for granted my entire life the feeling of being loved unconditionally. And that realization makes me feel humbled, blessed, and a little bit ashamed.
    Despite the fact that we don’t know each other I wish more than anything I could just hug you long and hard enough to fix what has been cruelly broken inside you.
    Keep fighting for you.

  • Pedro M. Rosario Barbosa

    Take your time, dear friend.

  • Michael J. Teston

    I recognize that using the term “unconditional” before love has become almost a necessity inside the walls among the “c-hurch-e” types, it is though unfortunate. So many of us have never understood “love” at all and have been polluted by the quid pro quo, the transaction type of leveraging that goes on in the name of relationships all of us have been exposed to. And that kind of sick sick understanding has pervaded most understandings of God, even when you run across the generosity, kindness, and grace-full life and living of Jesus. The notions around a god who needs to be “satisfied” through punishing someone, even his only son in the name of some whacky justice is continued to poison the deep places of life for many. Sounds to me like you’re on the right path and as a side note. Your comments on twitter last night were awesome about the debate. Best part the woman moderator, I think everything else might have been a carnival act.

  • Dani Kelley

    I can’t even tell you how timely this is for me. Have had 3 panic attacks this week – 2 related to being sexually assaulted, and one triggered by the conviction that I’m the biggest disappointment on the face of the planet because I’m trying to take care of my emotional needs instead of focusing exclusively on making other people comfortable and happy. Just…feeling like a failure. Like I shouldn’t be taking my assault so seriously because it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, like I’m a failure as a daughter for leaving conservative Christianity even though my dad’s dying and it upsets him and my mom, like I’m a failure as a friend because so much of my time and energy is spent on simply making it through every day and I’m just not fun to be around, like I’m a failure as a wife/partner because my PTSD so often gets in the way of our love life and wakes him up the middle of the night with nightmares and just…I feel like I shouldn’t fall apart like this, like I should already be healed and be okay and thriving.

    “Your body needs gentleness and slowness.” I’m sure that my brain and my heart do, too. And it’s amazingly refreshing and healing to hear, while also somewhat unbelievable because the overwhelming message I’ve heard from everyone I love and respect the most has been to just suck it up and move on. But…gentleness and slowness…isn’t that how God works? I don’t even know anymore.

  • Claire Westbrook

    Just found your blog today and am really enjoying your writing. I do not come from the same background as you, but as far as my spiritual journey is concerned, I have just started to grasp God’s love for me in the past few months (after 26 years of growing up in church). My story ( ) actually consists of anxiety/panic attacks and continuing to deal with that while trusting in God can be hard. But I have found it to be so fulfilling to run to Him. I pray your heart continues to stretch and soften as you let His love and grace pour into you.

  • Anonymous

    “I don’t believe God loves me unconditionally because because love doesn’t feel like love to me unless I’m being punished.”

    This is *exactly* the realization that I had as I was reading that book. I was taught over and over again that just as a parent beats their kids to make them good, God beats us to make us good. That’s screwed up!

    Brennan Manning’s book broke the dam for me. After reading Ragamuffin Gospel and Abba’s Child, I could no longer justify this belief that God was some kind of cosmic score-keeper who had to punish each and every one of my sins. God spoke to me through Manning’s words and truly set my soul free.

    Blessings to you on your journey.

  • Handsfull

    No words.
    Just… I’m sad that you’ve got new pain to deal with, on top of the old pain that is still raw.
    And I’m glad that you’re still fighting for life and recovery. Fighting CAN look like slowing down and accepting grace.
    Love you, EE!

  • Grandmother

    Your transparency while still on-the-journey is so much easier for me to read about while sitting here with my coffee than it is for you to live, obviously. I think perhaps you’ve mentioned Brene Brown’s books somewhere else on your blog? I’m working my way through Daring Greatly right now and have so much farther to go in that vulnerability journey than the final page of the book. You’re in the arena, and I for one am glad you didn’t wait until things were tidied-up and wrapped-up and figured-out to be there. Cheering for you – and hoping to get there myself someday.

  • Nancy

    Have you read “The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus” yet? I think, based on what you’re writing about here, it might be a great book for you. It was for me, for many of the reasons you’ve written about. I thought God felt critical of/toward me for so long . . . I am 43, and the past 7 years or so have been such a dramatic, slow, unwinding of that idea. I am finally understanding how much God adores me and you, and that even if I couldn’t *do* a single thing “for” him, he would still love me just as vastly and tenderly.

  • Melissa

    This makes me go “mmmmm-hmmmmmm” and nod at my computer screen.

    So true, and so hard. Slow healing is tough but the only real way to do it, and sometimes I think that stinks. I want to be whole NOW. :)

  • chantal chauvet

    You are in my prayers Elizabeth as are all the woman, children and men who have been hurt by the representing of a punishing and angry God. I often read the no longer quivering website. I think the misrepresenting of God and the harm and hurt done to children in His name must be one of the issues that break God’s heart. I accept that I don’t know very much but I know God to be Truth, Beauty and Love. Anything else I disregard. All I want for my children is for them to seek Truth, appreciate Beauty and be Charitable. (This includes the delighting in the discoveries of science…) I pray that God reveals himself to you as who is and may you rest in Love and be free in the Truth that you are beloved.