Those of us parents who are also recovering evangelicals have an impossible burden to bear.
First of all, we are desperate and determined to do better by our children, but we don’t have good role models in our lives, and we instinctively parent out of the way we were parented. Secondly, we carry wounds from a childhood of toxic religiosity that are easily triggered as we relive some of our childhood through our own kids. Third, as we drift over from conservative culture into more left-leaning spaces, we find there are some terribly high standards there as well. We are told to be gentle and peaceful, social justice-y and woke, mindful and intellectual. All of that requires time to read think-pieces and do yoga, and because the kids ridiculously need to be fed three times a day, it’s a bit of a challenge.
It’s one thing to have been raised in either camp (Left or Right) and stayed there, it’s quite another to move and shift and change. Being influx is so hard and we all know how much harder it is to travel with children.
And yet, we cannot stay. Remaining in status quo would break us even more, and it is for freedom that we flee, as hard as we know the journey will be. But the thing is, the tenuous and flighty nature of evolving faith is also a permission slip to live in the imperfections of parenting. It is okay for us to be recoverING evangelicals, we are not there yet, and the truth is we also know we’ll never arrive because we don’t quite know where we are going. We might always struggle with the issues of being raised with authoritarianism and spiritual toxicity because childhood wounds affect us deeply, that’s why we strive to do better by our children. We will move two steps forward and one step back, certain of our truth in one moment and doubting everything the next because we have not been taught to trust in our own intuitions. Our instability makes us imperfect parents, but it also is incredibly human.
What I know is that awareness of our growth is power. Yes, it’s unsettling to uncover yet another way we were raised which was really damaging, and yes it throws us into existential crises and self-doubt, but the dismantling of those layers of toxicity empowers us to confront our past, validate our emotions, and move through it to find healing. We don’t have to be recovered—there is enough redemption in the knowledge of our recovering.
We are in process, and that is a compelling space to do our parenting. We know to dance to the unpredictable rhythms of uncertainty, which means we will also allow our children freedom to risk, experiment, and grow in their development. We struggle so our children can see us overcome. We change our minds so our children know they can too. We are so imperfectly human so our children can relax into their own humanity.
Because we have not yet recovered, we get to welcome our children to be our healers as well, alongside other resources accessible to us. And they do so with their infectious joy that make us laugh on our darkest days. They push our buttons so we know where we still hurt and pay attention to that wound so it doesn’t fester. They grow into their own personalities so obviously outside of our influences, that we have hope they might be good, kind, and wise despite our weaknesses. It is more than okay that we are still recovering because our children can participate in our rising.
Next time you get discouraged that you haven’t got your sh!t together enough to be decent parents to your kids, remember that even though you haven’t arrived, you showed up for the journey. Recovering is the ongoing work of knowing better, doing better, and then knowing even better. This process requiring the utmost courage may just be the best parenting you can do.
The kids are gonna be alright.
Sign up for my parenting newsletter and get the four alternative spiritual laws: