"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Letting Go

Monday, March 31, 2014

Letting Go

Thanks to Daisy for the following excerpt from "The Language of Letting Go" by Melody Beattie. I hope it is helpful to readers who are struggling with how to deal with their loved ones.
Picture a bridge. On one side of the bridge it is cold and dark. We stood there with others . . . doubled over in pain. Some of us developed an eating disorder to cope with the pain. Some drank; some used other drugs. Some of us lost control of our sexual behavior. Some of us obsessively focused on addicted people's pain to distract us from our own . . .   
We did not know there was a bridge. We thought we were trapped on a cliff. Then, some of us got lucky . . 
We saw the bridge. People told us what was on the other side: warmth, light, and healing from our pain. We could barely glimpse or imagine this, but we decided to start the trek across the bridge anyway,
Photo by John Mueller
We tried to convince the people around us on the cliff that there was a bridge to a better place, but they wouldn’t listen. They couldn’t see it . . . they were not ready for the journey. We decided to go alone, because we believed, and because people on the other side were cheering us onward. The closer we got to the other side, the more we could see, and feel, that what we had been promised was real. There was light, warmth, healing, and love. The other side was a better place.  
But now there is a bridge between us and those on the other side. Sometimes, we may be tempted to go back and drag them over with us, but it cannot be done. No one can be dragged or forced across the bridge. Each person must go at his or her own choice, when the time is right. Some will come; some will stay on the other side. The choice is not ours.  
We can love them. We can wave to them. We can holler back and forth. We can cheer them on, as others have cheered and encouraged us. But we cannot make them come over with us. If our time has come to cross the bridge, or if we have already crossed and are standing in the light and warmth, we do not have to feel guilty. It is where we were meant to be. We do not have to go back to the dark cliff because another’s time has not yet come.The best thing we can do is stay in the light, because it reassures others that there is a better place. And if others ever do decide to cross the bridge, we will be there to cheer them on. 
Today, I will move forward with my life, despite what others are doing or not doing. I will know it is my right to cross the bridge to a better life, even if I must leave others behind to do that. I will not feel guilty, I will not feel ashamed. I know that where I am now is a better place and where I’m meant to be.  
What about you? How do you let go?


  1. To some extent it comes down to personal maturity. Those who have internally matured are able to leave while those who have not, or will not mature, feel compelled to remain on dark side of the bridge. Wiki has a good write up about Erik Erickson's, 'stages of psychosocial development'. The various stages of development as outlined by Erickson, can easily be applied to the Laestadian thought process. The first step at a young age is basic trust versus mistrust. From what I can remember, more than a few Laestadians never progressed beyond that first stage. Old AP

    1. I suspect that some who stay have made tradeoffs similar to those who decide to keep on working at a job that is unfulfilling but pays the bills, e.g., the church may be unfulfilling (and even painful) but provides stability, a social network, and in some cases, employment. As long as the cost of leaving is social ostracization, that will be too high a price for many.

    2. Thanks for mentioning Erickson's stages, Old AP. I haven't thought about those in many years, and now that I have teenagers, they are worth revisiting.

  2. Isn't that what aging, maturing, and (hopefully) growing in wisdom is all about? Letting go.

    Letting go of childhood fantasies of what our life will become.
    Letting go of unrealistic expectations we have of ourselves and others.
    Letting go of hurt and pain and judgmental thoughts.

    We finished "Christianity after Religion" in our book study class last night. Everyone attending is a "recovering" something (Catholic, Baptist, etc.) and someone asked if others sometimes have the fleeting thought: "What if they're right?" So, we ex-OALers are not the only ones to have that occasional wrenching fear!

    I found great comfort in that.


    1. There is comfort in the universality of experience, for sure. Thank you for sharing that, SISU.

  3. "Christianity after religion", thats true. There is no real born again Christianity if you are in religion, trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross alone gets you born again. I wish people would dare do that. Book study class? The book? By the way when you decide to trust in Christ alone you will know the difference.......Matt

  4. Old AP here with an update on my previous post. The following is Erickson's 8 stages of development from wiki.
    1.Basic trust vs. basic mistrust - This stage covers the period of infancy. 0-1 year of age, which is the most fundamental stage of life. - Whether or not the baby develops basic trust or basic mistrust is not merely a matter of nurture. It is multi-faceted and has strong social components. It depends on the quality of the maternal relationship. The mother carries out and reflects their inner perceptions of trustworthiness, a sense of personal meaning, etc. on the child. If successful in this, the baby develops a sense of trust, which “forms the basis in the child for a sense of identity“. Failure to develop this trust will result in fear in the baby and a belief that the world is inconsistent and unpredictable.
    2.Autonomy vs. Shame - Covers early childhood around 1–3 years old- Introduces the concept of autonomy vs. shame and doubt. During this stage the child is trying to master toilet training.
    3.Purpose - Initiative vs. Guilt - Preschool / 3–6 years - Does the child have the ability to or do things on their own, such as dress him or herself? If "guilty" about making his or her own choices, the child will not function well. Erikson has a positive outlook on this stage, saying that most guilt is quickly compensated by a sense of accomplishment.
    4.Competence - Industry vs. Inferiority - School-age / 6-11 years. Child comparing self-worth to others (such as in a classroom environment). Child can recognize major disparities in personal abilities relative to other children. Erikson places some emphasis on the teacher, who should ensure that children do not feel inferior.
    5.Fidelity - Identity vs. Role Confusion - Adolescent / 12-18 years. Questioning of self. Who am I, how do I fit in? Where am I going in life? Erikson believes, that if the parents allow the child to explore, they will conclude their own identity. However, if the parents continually push him/her to conform to their views, the teen will face identity confusion.
    6.Intimacy vs. isolation - This is the first stage of adult development. This development usually happens during young adulthood, which is between the ages of 18 to 35. Dating, marriage, family and friendships are important during the stage in their life. By successfully forming loving relationships with other people, individuals are able to experience love and intimacy. Those who fail to form lasting relationships may feel isolated and alone.
    7.Generativity vs. stagnation is the second stage of adulthood and happens between the ages of 35-64. During this time people are normally settled in their life and know what is important to them. A person is either making progress in their career or treading lightly in their career and unsure if this is what they want to do for the rest of their working lives. Also during this time, a person is enjoying raising their children and participating in activities, that gives them a sense of purpose. If a person is not comfortable with the way their life is progressing, they're usually regretful about the decisions and feel a sense of uselessness.
    8.Ego integrity vs. despair. This stage affects the age group of 65 and on. During this time an individual has reached the last chapter in their life and retirement is approaching or has already taken place. Many people, who have achieved what was important to them, look back on their lives and feel great accomplishment and a sense of integrity. Conversely, those who had a difficult time during middle adulthood may look back and feel a sense of despair.

  5. Old AP here with an update on my previous post. When reviewing Erickson's various stages years ago I thought to myself that much of the 'religious struggles', confessions and 'mea culpas' of Laestadianism were actually problems with unfulfilled emotional development. In retrospect, I recalled many vicious emotional, psychological and even physical attacks by various Laestadian parents on their children which were in essence, efforts to squash any type of emotional maturity and growth. Old AP

  6. I"m not sure how dialogue can progress when you refer to those who still believe in the faith they grew up in as "not maturing" and being in the "dark". I like the image of being able to wave/talk to one another. But not the stereotyping. As I know you resent when people do that to you.

  7. FALCon.....In 1Corinthians 3:2 Paul said, "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able." Paul was writing to immature Christians who were fixated on legalistic type issues versus bearing fruit. There are a lot of similarities between personal growth of a person and personal growth of one's Christian faith. So yes, I see much of Laestadianism as an 'immature' faith' tied up with legalism, arguements about confession or the 'forgiveness of sins', exclusivism etc.... versus an evangelical faith built on the rock of faith in Jesus. Your comment that I am 'stereotyping' seems way off base as there are numerous outsiders, including wikipedia, who have done write ups about Laestadianism and they all contain consistent and factual explanations of what Laestadians in general believe. I well remember having grown up within Laestadian circles and listening to what people said they believed versus what they really believed. Old AP

  8. Old AP, I like your response to FALCon. I was uncomfortable with this person's comments and yet did not know how I wanted to respond. You said it for me. We usually see our mental and spiritual growth in hindsight. We see where we have come from, and we can see who is "still back there" based on their words and actions.

    As I learned in a college course I took many years ago, we can relate to someone a step above us on Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development, but not more than that. We can understand those on levels below us because we have been there at some point in our lives.

    FALCon, we cannot see into someone else's heart and can only know them by their words and actions. This does not mean that we cannot describe or define a Group. We can base that on their professed belief system.


  9. I agree, Chrksgja kty

    I agree, we have to journey. The Jews were under the law. When they sinned they brought a sin offering to the Priest and they were good to go so to speak. Did it take faith? None at all.
    The same today when we sin we bring our sin offering, our confession of sin to the preacher and we are good to go, does that take faith ? None at all. The Jews were asked to leave their sacrifices behind because Jesus was their perfect sacrifice, and he offered himself on the cross and paid for all sins Thiers and ours. Did the Jews believe that? Very few did. Does the Laestadian movement believe that Jesus paid for all sins and our only part is to believe it. Very few do, and if they do they find themselves on the outside. ......Matt

  10. The irony is a tad thick in here. Would you accuse me of stereotyping, Old AP, SISU and Matt, if as an atheist I described your Christian beliefs as "immature faith?"

    Certainly, some Laestadians are probably stuck in various stages of psychosocial development. But as Free pointed out, there are a myriad of reasons for remaining in one's childhood faith, including truly believing in what is preached. What, you think all Laestadians have never examined their beliefs before?

    Yes, we can describe a group based on their belief system. But I agree with FALCon that using language like "not maturing" and the "dark" side of the bridge is unnecessarily hostile and immature in itself. For my part, even though I don't share that same faith anymore, most of the people I know from church ARE morally mature, loving and sincere in their worship of Christ.

    But what do I know, I'm your stereotypical God-hating, Satan-worshipping, baby-eating atheist. /sarc

  11. Thank you, SISU, for acknowledging we cannot know what lies in another's heart. Therefore I challenge you to try and find some common ground between old conservative faiths and the new faiths (or lack of faiths) you now follow. Perhaps that would be more constructive.

  12. Actually, a mature Christian faith is highly rated in secular psychology books. I recall one secular medical book stating that Jesus was probably the most emotionally mature person who had every lived. To be fair I should mention that in the same chapter they also put Ghandi in the same category. With regards to your rhetorical remark about how all Laestadians have examined their beliefs......I would say to the contrary that most have not done so in that their measure of things is pretty much a comparison of themselves with others within their respective group and certainly not a comparison of their group as a whole with the Bible or other evangelical Christian groups. In fact, many of those Laestadians who have done an honest examination have in fact left and many are also readers of this web site. With regards to your comments that I am 'hostile' when I describe members as not 'not maturing' and those who remain on the 'dark side of the bridge'....I would say from my experience-as well as many, many other ex-Laestadians whom I have talked to-that we did indeed feel that we had been on the dark side of the bridge once we were out of Laestadianism. In my case, once I crossed the bridge I realized I had grown up in a world that was based on superstition, emtional abuse, voodoo (God is going to kill you), Calvinism, religiousity, pietism and old the Finnish torpar mentality. You imply that you are a 'Satan-worshiper' or something worse etc.....I recall that those who have been in one set of extreme beliefs have a tendency to jump to some other extreme. So I would personally wonder if you gave up the extremes of Laestadianism and embraced Satanism/atheism because you still needed something to hold onto. In contrast a truly mature person would nurture the caring and giving portion of themselves to help others as there are needs and injustices everywhere. So I would wonder if instead of being in a 'Laestadian rut' you have more or lessed segued over to an 'anti-Laestadian rut' as you still need the emotional security blanket of extremism. Old AP

  13. Oh, for crying out loud. /sarc indicates sarcasm, Old AP. I was playing on common atheist stereotypes. I no more believe in Satan than I do the Tooth Fairy (or the Biblical God, for that matter).

  14. 2 For 10:12 says He who compares himself with others is not wise. Because our standard is not other people or other Churches. Our standard bearer is Jesus Christ Himself. We are not good enough to meet his standard, so we are told to receive Jesus by faith, believe in and trust in the finished work of the cross. That's it. Believe only.And use your own words and tellGod. The Laestadian movement has been comparing themselves with others for 100 years and look at what has happened, dozens of church splits and no peace, just back and forth to confession land no power of the Holy spirit to be victorious.I spent 40
    unhappy years in the Laestadian system trying to find, which church was the"right church". That teaching is straight from hell. But that's what the Laestadian movement teaches. Finally I was instructed right. If you want to get saved and born again place allll God given faith on Jesus.....Matt

  15. I don't see "the other side" as a dark place. I know there are people there who are living their lives in mostly joy, and happiness, and connectedness. I am happy for them. After all, I wanted to be just like them.

    I also know there are people who are NOT accepted in the churches, who feel "less than" everyone else there. There are people who have "sinned" in the estimation of others (though sometimes not Biblically) and not been forgiven, forever stigmatized. There are the intellectually curious, those who don't necessarily call people from the other groups heretics, or are, for whatever reason, on the fringe of the group. I have been one of those people who questioned a few things I was told, and who thought God's love and forgiveness should trump the details of it all. That was a truly dark place. So I am not saying that the church is a dark place, but it can be rather gray for misfits like I was. I loved the people there and I loved the church but I could not force myself to pound square-peg-me into that round hole. Oh, how I wanted to be like the rest of them, but I felt like I was from another planet. I'm still a square peg, with worn edges from years of pushing, but I escaped. Was it easy? Heck no! Was the process fun? Well, about as stressful as a death or divorce. I would have rather had a root canal every day. Did I come out on the other side? Absolutely!

    I would never EVER want to drag anyone out of the church if they are happy there. It's those who are there who are unhappy and who feel forced to remain or lose all their friends or friends who I consider in a dark place. I know I have been the subject of gossip and ridicule from my family since I left. My own children have had to hear it and there are "leaks." They were incredibly hurtful at first, but eventually, eventually, I no longer care what they might say about me. And there in that, those social reinforcements lose all their power.

    I will always love these folks, but they don't have to love me.

    --Punahilkka (Hi, Uncle Jon!)

  16. Punahikka,
    Thank you. You express thoughts that I kept having as a I read here. The truth is, painting groups of people with a broad brush does little for them or us. It is little different to say "all Laestadians are narrow minded judgemental child abusers" than it is for them to say "all who leave are drunkards". Upon leaving I had some people treat me poorly, and other's were gracious and kind. I try to approach life from the standpoint of getting to know individuals. In the course of my work, I have met atheists whose lives are more Christian than many self proclaimed Christians, I have met members of biker gangs who were extremely kind and upstanding pillars of the community who were violent abusers.

  17. Yes, I love the Laestadians. That being said, I never want to go back to church and don't even like going to bridal showers or graduation celebrations there. I will go to weddings and funerals. I have had the happiest time in my life since I left the church, and it's not because I chose a "worldly" lifestyle. Don't care a bit for alcohol or dancing.

    The only reason I write in here is because I know some Apostolic Lutherans read this page. They can't help it, they want to know what we're saying about them. Some of them wish they could leave themselves.

    I left the church because in order to fit in with them, I would have had to become a mean, intolerant, and judging person, and I had no wish to become one of the "mean girls".

  18. Anon above: I just realized the irony of my above post and got quite a chuckle over it. I am saying I love the Laestadians and then calling them mean, intolerant, and judging person. I don't really find them that way individually, but collectively, yes.