Ep 9 My Love Story Part 2 (Personal Rejection and Judgement)

Hello my friend. Welcome to the one heart podcast. I’m your host Brooke Snow. I’m so grateful you are here.

In this episode I’m going to continue part 2 of my Love story. And I have to say that in over ten years of podcasting, this episode is hands down the most vulnerable episode I’ve ever done. That being said, I want to preface by letting you know my two personal guidelines for vulnerability..

1. First, I never publicly share my stories when I am in the messy middle. I always always wait until I am in a neutral place and have progressed through any experience far enough to be able to have some healthy detachment.
2. Second, I only share with purpose. And always my purpose is to teach a principle. The principle I’m teaching in this story is unconditional love—which you will probably quickly notice, you don’t hear about unconditional love in this story until the end. What you will hear instead is a lot about rejection and judgement. But life often teaches us most profoundly through contrast. For me, I could not know what true love was, until I learned what love is Not.

As always, before we start I invite you to join me in a short three breath meditation to settle into your own heart. Today I need this meditation to ground me in my heart as I share some really vulnerable things. And because of that sensitivity, could I request of you, that you use this meditation to settle into your heart so you might hear my story from the heart instead of the mind? I would be so grateful. Namaste.

Hello friends! I’m continuing my personal story of my journey to unconditional love. In the last episode I spoke about how my image of who I believe God to be has evolved throughout my life from seeing God as a judge, to coming to see God as love.

Our personal conditioning has a lot to do with whatever image we perceive God to be. And because we are all unique beings, we each have our own way of internalizing the messages we receive from those around us. Even if you are raised in the same family, the same church, the same community, we all have our unique way have perceiving and interpreting the world around us. So as I share my own story today, please remember that this is only my experience and does not represent the experience of all people who may have been raised in the exact same environment as me.

I was born and raised in a High Demand Christian Religion. According to psychotherapynetworker.org, a high-demand, high-control religion is a faith community that

– requires obedience;
– discourages its members from questioning its rules, principles, and practices;
– expects subservience and loyalty;
– discourages trusting relationships outside the group;
– perpetuates the notion that those within the group are right and superior to those outside of it;
– promotes extreme or polarizing beliefs;
– and expects its members to suppress their authentic selves in exchange for the sense of belonging and security the group offers.

Though I’m sure that definition will make church members uncomfortable , it’s hard to deny that we meet every single one of those markers in one way or another.

On one hand, this level of demand and control can foster high character and morals. It can create high achievers and a striving to be your very best.

On the other hand, it can create toxic perfectionism, judgement, shame and guilt when you or someone else does not meet the ideal. Much of the toxic effects are suffered in silence and interpreted as something being wrong with you, because I have heard so many times, “the church is perfect but the people are not.”

I was raised by wonderful parents. The church was part of my heritage for multiple generations and the predominate religion of the state of Utah where I’ve lived most of my life. Because of this, all of my friends from grade school through graduate school were exclusively members of the church. It was the air I breathed. It was a society of conformity and there was very little diversity. Even secular settings like public school, the local government, or community events were highly influenced by the beliefs and paradigm of the church. You might consider it similar to growing up in an idyllic 1950s town. The people were kind, generous, and had high values. This was the only world I knew. It was a lovely way to grow up. I had a great childhood, I loved my college experience and I have loved living in Utah. It’s a great place to live.

When I attended Utah State University my friend group was still exclusively part of the church. It’s not to say there weren’t people on campus or in my community that were different. Of course there were. I just didn’t have close associations with them. I can’t think of a single close friend in twenty years of formal school who was not part of the church.

This wasn’t a conscious choice to only associate with those like me. I think it was simply a math equation. There was more of us than there was of them. And yes, that’s how I felt. There was a feeling of an in group and an out-group. Much of this feeling came from the church’s teachings of being the one true church in all the world and the only way to be saved and make it back to God. This claim was deeply influential on how I viewed myself and the rest of humanity. Even as I would meet other amazing people in the world, I always had a divide between me and the other person.

They’re a wonderful person, BUT, they don’t have the truth yet.
They seem happy and at peace, BUT, they don’t know what I know yet.
They are doing great things in the world, BUT, they’d really have it all if they became a member of the church…

There was always a BIG BUT sabotaging how I saw people not in the in-group of the church believers.

Or maybe I’d have negative judgements of others and their lifestyle, appearance, or actions. To that my mind would respond with an “if only”…

If only they joined the church their life would be better.
If only they joined the church, then they would find happiness.
If only they joined the church and conformed, then I could accept them.

In the last episode I shared with you how my views of God evolved from seeing God as a judge, to coming to experience God as unconditional love. Even though I was raised to believe that I was a chosen and elect person to be in God’s one and only true church, I started to experience extreme cognitive dissonance in this way of thinking.

If God loved everyone, how does that make me chosen and elect?
If God was really no respecter of persons, then I don’t think God sees humanity the way I had always seen them, as a black and white division of those who were saved and those who were not or a division of those who are on the one and only true path, and those who are not.

Many other things contributed to my cognitive dissonance, including learning more about the history of the church, the inequality of women, and the ways minority groups have been harshly treated. Things I had never questioned or noticed before because it was the air I breathed in a community of conformity and strict obedience. Now I couldn’t unsee it.

Most of all though was the massive disconnect I felt in who God was. In my personal meditations I was experiencing a very different God. I was coming to know a God that loved all people no matter what. I was coming to know a God who was not the judge. I was coming to know a God who gives liberally and upraideth not, one who is compassionate, one who does not have only one acceptable path, a God who does not operate in a system of transaction but a law of grace and love.

Attending church became more and more painful. What I was experiencing can be described in a beautiful parable taught by Jesus about the wheat and the tares. In the King James Bible the word tares is another word for weeds.

Jesus speaks about how the wheat and the tares are allowed to grow together until in the last days, the tares need to be plucked from the wheat so the wheat can be gathered in and the tares can be burned.

My whole life I had seen this parable as a metafore representing people. There were righteous people and there were wicked. The wicked were the tares and the righteous were the wheat. In the last days the wicked would be burned and the righteous would be saved. But as I came to know God as unconditional love, I could no longer see the parable with this application. To see people as tares is dehumanizing. It allows me to completely dismiss a soul, a creation of God, to be burned and destroyed. It pits people against one another in division.

Instead, I saw this parable as a metafore representing beliefs and ideas:
There are ideas that are wheat and ideas that are tares.
In other words, There are beliefs that are true and beliefs that are false.
There are traditions that are true. There are traditions that are false.

The wheat and tares have been allowed to grow together for a long time, and in the last days they need to be sifted. The false ideas and beliefs need to be rooted out and burned and the true beliefs need to be gathered in.

At church I would hear wheat over the pulpit and I would hear tares.
I would hear wheat in the hymns sung and I would hear tares.
I would read wheat in the scriptures and read tares in the scriptures.
I would hear wheat from the top leaders of the church and I would hear tares.

Every single tare I heard or read would feel like a fiery arrow to my heart. It hurt deeply. Wheat and tares for me could be boiled down to that which is love and that which is not.

It became too painful for me to keep attending church. My body would go through a physical reaction being in the building, let alone singing songs and listening to sermons that had any trace of a tare somewhere within. I would cry instead of sing, and feel every tare spoken. It’s not to say there wasn’t wheat. There was. But the tares hurt so much my gaping wounds couldn’t be ignored to just focus only on the good. The God I was experiencing in meditation was no longer the same God I was experiencing in church. What I was being told to think and believe was not matching up with my own lived experience. For my own mental health and wellbeing I quietly stopped attending. I completely stepped away.

Only there was one big problem. To do this was to remove myself from my entire support network. My family, my friends, my community, my followers, my business. It was my whole world. And turns out, nothing about this was going to be quiet.

My family has experienced their own trauma as I have tried to navigate this path. Out of respect for their privacy I’m not going to share those personal stories. I will say I have felt painfully alone. I have been faced with balancing the need to follow the path that is correct for me while also honoring the path they feel is correct for them–all while trying to practice non judgement. Balancing this in a mixed faith marriage and mixed faith parenting is no small thing.

It was with this in mind that I created my final podcast of The Brooke Snow Podcast, and announced I had gone through a faith expansion as I believe there to be many paths to God. I honor whatever path someone feels is correct for them. Because that podcast was built over five years of speaking exclusively to those in the church, I knew it would be a shock and a disappointment to many people. It took me five months after I stopped attending church to get up the courage to even share that episode publicly.

Even though I believe in an unconditionally loving God, I have battled severe guilt and shame over leaving. I was taught to fear the consequences of anyone who ever left and to see them as evil and deceived. I know this isn’t true as my adult self, but I have been haunted by the conditioning of 40+years that doesn’t go away overnight. I have to pause regularly and address the fearful cries of my inner child. The thing she is most afraid of is not God or her eternal salvation. She loves God and feels safe with God. The thing she is most afraid of is rejection from the community. She knows what she was taught to believe about those who leave. She knows what the judgements are and what people think and she’s so afraid of the rejection.

And, her fears are not unfounded. Everything she was most afraid of happening came true. And beyond.

Publicly, I was intentionally vague on what a faith expansion meant to me because I feel it’s deeply personal and dynamic. I didn’t think it was anyone’s business what my church status was. I didn’t want to alienate myself coming right and out and saying I no longer participate, and I certainly didn’t want others to think I was putting judgement on them or the church if they were devout believers. But with my vague explanation, people were quick to assume and fill in the blanks with their own stories and judgements. I was astonished how mean and hateful people could be when they didn’t agree with someone else’s path. And of course, I took all of their words personally.

I was told I was going to hell.
I was told Satan was controlling me.
I was cancelled, rejected, unfollowed, and judged mercilessly.
I watched strangers cruely gossip about me in my own Instagram thread as if I wasn’t there.
I was told about the local gossip in my congregation regarding my absence and shocked to hear what some of my neighbors were saying behind my back. These were people I’d grown up with and loved and respected. Instead of talking to me they talked about me like I was a problem to be fixed or a case to be mourned.

Many in my closest circles struggled to understand me and some even betrayed me in the most heartbreaking way. Many days I wished I could just die so I wouldn’t have to feel the pain of this level of rejection any longer. It hurt so deeply.

This was a lonely time. It felt like there was hardly anyone I could trust in the church to still love me. I will love you IF you believe like me. I was shocked to discover how much power I placed in others opinion of me. If others loved me, then I gave myself permission to love myself. If others did not love me, then something must be wrong with who I am.

The public ridicule and private heartbreak took their toll. I would regularly break down crying from the memories of rejection. I would feel panic at the thought of going places like the grocery store or community events because it was inevitable I’d run into someone I knew from the church. But what caused the most anxiety was people I didn’t know. Strangers in the past often approached me in public who recognized me from my podcast to tell me how much they loved my work.

As soon as I publicly acknowledged my faith expansion and began receiving hateful messages, I began to feel terror in public. I’d pass a person in the store who looked as if they recognized me and I would instantly think, “Do they know me? Do they hate me? Have they judged me too?” My heart would pound and I would replay all the harsh comments spoken by others, assuming all people felt the same.

I have spent years taming my own inner critic but the voices of other people as critics in my mind was something else entirely.

Did every single person in the church really hate me and reject me? Of course not. Most people have remained silent. The haters are likely the minority, but they are loud and having it be public made it feel a thousands times bigger and my mind fixated on cycling these memories repeatedly through my mind, thus creating the reality I lived in. It was hard to deny my reality because I had so much evidence. I had actual statements people have said. I had actual betrayal and heartbreak in my relationships. My mind made everything feel very real to me. It was my reality.

In time I gained 25 pounds from the stress and trauma. My hormones were wrecked. I soon had chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue, and depression from the constant state of fearing rejection and feeling so achingly alone. Alone in my own home. Alone in my community. Alone in the world.

Instead of starting a new podcast immediately as I had originally planned, I felt called to take a long break. I needed time to recover and I needed space away from other people’s judgements. I laid low and worked on healing the scared inner child inside me and practiced self love and acceptance.

As the year went on, I lost hundreds of app subscribers, hundreds of followers on social media, and thousands of email unsubscribes. My income nose dived. Even the famous church book publication company that had commissioned me to teach a meditation course removed it without notice. I had been erased. After an entire lifetime of doing all the right things to be accepted and climbing the status within church culture the fall was far. The rejection deeply hurt.

I knew honoring my own path could risk me losing a lot. Why? Because literally my entire life is connected to the church. My marriage, my family, my business, my reputation, my friends… in some ways I faired much better than my fears. In other ways it was so much worse than I could have ever expected.

Some may wonder why put so much at risk? Just stay in the boat. Don’t rock it. Your life will be so much easier. On the surface yes. But living your life in order to keep everyone around you comfortable comes at a very high cost to your own soul. Especially when your soul is clearly calling you to a different path. My body was already paying the price. It was not sustainable let alone a life of peace and happiness.

A month before I launched the One Heart Podcast I got an unexpected text from a high ranking church leader who was over all the local congregations in my area. At this point I haven’t attended church in over nine months in my plan to quietly disappear and remove myself from the perpetual trauma of hearing tares mixed into the teachings and the preaching of what felt to me like a transactional God. He said he wanted to talk with me about my business and podcast. I replied back that I didn’t see how my business and podcast was church business. Five minutes later he called me on the phone.

Apparently this was serious. Within the first minute of speaking he got right to the point saying, “I know you are no longer attending. I just want you to know that I have downloaded your app and I have read the transcript to your final podcast on your website and if you ever say anything that goes against the church doctrine your membership will be removed.”

There was no effort to seek first to understand and then seek to be understood. Instead it was an immediate threat of excommunication.

I calmly responded saying, “Okay. You have downloaded my app, do you see anything that concerns you on there?”

He said, “Well no… but there could be in the future. And you told people in your final podcast that there is more than one way to God. You’re welcome to think whatever you want, and even privately talk about it with your husband or even in the halls at church, but the moment you publicly say something like that it becomes a problem. Telling people there is more than one path could lead people out of the church. It could lead people to stop following the prophet.”

Apparently he missed my disclaimer. That really important line in big bold font on the transcript that says, “my purpose in sharing this is not to lead anyone out of the church, but rather to save relationships. If this can offer a compassionate point of view of those who leave, a view that might honor the journey others take without having to judge them as sinners, and therefore save important relationships, this is why I share.”

We spoke for thirty minutes. Over and over again he warned me of losing my membership.

There wasn’t technically anything I had done that warranted excommunication, this was more about what I could do in the future. The whole conversation was baffling to me. I had loyally given my money, my time, my talents, and my entire life to the church. And the moment I questioned anything and shared publicly in the most loving way I could that I personally needed to take a different path, I was not met with compassion, I was met with rejection. I was met with warnings to stay silent or risk excommunication.

To people outside the church, excommunication might not seem like a big deal, especially if you no longer want to be part of the church. In my case, I have a believing family whom I love very much, who believes my membership is the only way for our family to still be together in the next life and the only way I will make it to heaven. It’s of great importance to my family. Excommunication is also social death in a community saturated with believers. It is the church’s form of shunning and there is really nothing more shaming than being rejected by the church–who is seen as God’s judges in Israel. They claim to speak for God. So if they reject you, then people see this as God rejecting you, which means you are the worst kind of sinner. Not only does this illicit judgmental gossip, it alienates you from your community because now you are officially seen as someone not in the fold. I know I would eventually be able to heal from this rejection. But I certainly didn’t want to inflict any of that shame and judgement and alienation on my children or family.

I can’t imagine Jesus, in his parable of the lost sheep, leaving the 99 sheep in the fold and finding the one sheep who had left and immediately saying, “I know you left. You need to know that if you ever say anything different than what we believe, you are officially out of the flock.”

It doesn’t align whatsoever with the God I have come to know for myself.

This church leader wanted to know my future plans. What was I going to do going forward? I told him about the One Heart Podcast I’d be starting soon and my intention to teach about love. He immediately reissued the same warning. “If you ever say anything that is against the doctrine of the church your membership will be removed. I will be listening to your podcast.”

“Well”, I said, “if I unconditional love is against church doctrine then my days are numbered. Jesus went down for love and I’m willing to do the same.”

The conversation ended and he immediately sent a follow up text saying if I ever wanted to meet with him he could answer all my questions. He assured me there was an explanation for every one of my concerns about church doctrine.

I declined his invitation saying I was no longer interested in making the doctrine perfect. Because it’s not. We can dance around and make up stories about why the tares exist and how we should not question them and just accept them on faith, or maybe we could pluck them out. But until the church can acknowledge the doctrine contains both wheat and tares, apparently they will continue to just pluck out the people.

I was pretty electrified by the conversation. On one hand, I was fiercely proud of myself. I didn’t stay small. I stood up for myself. I spoke my truth and had nothing to hide. On the other hand, I had just endured what my past self would consider to be the scariest most shameful judgement that could ever occur. Threat of rejection from a person who was seen in a position standing for God and the possibility of public rejection from my entire community.

This can be traumatizing. Psychologist, Abraham Maslow in his famous pyramid of the hierarchy of needs lists the need for love and belonging just above our basic needs for survival. This is a fundamental need of all humans on the planet. We need to feel like we are loved and that we belong in our community in order to grow and thrive.

The following day I was in my yoga class and made it thirty minutes into class before crumpling onto the floor in child’s pose in uncontrollable sobs. My body went into a delayed trauma response and I just curled up in the fetal position and cried and shook. Ugly cry. With snot everywhere. And it lasted for thirty minutes before I could calm myself.

I have to pause and acknowledge the compassion of the yoga community. The woman on the mat next to me is also a yoga teacher. While the rest of class continued on, she paused and came over to me and silently rubbed my back to soothe and hold space for my trauma response. Afterwards she asked for no details, only hugged me, placed both hands on my shoulders looking square into my eyes and assured me that whatever I was going through, however big the existential crisis may be, that I would get through this. That I was held. That I was loved. That I would make it through. Many of my other yoga friends came and hugged me, also honoring my privacy and simply held space with no judgement. This is what an unconditionally loving community looks like.

This sweet yoga teacher later reached out to me and offered a listening ear if I needed someone to talk with. I then shared my story of what had occurred with the church leader and her response was so empathetic. She is an English professor at the local University, and though she has never been part of the church, she confided that over the years she has read so many personal essays from her students who are in pain and deeply suffering from their own experiences in the church. She said,

“Brooke, you leaving is a big deal. This is not like saying, “oh I’m just not going to be Methodist anymore. The founding story and beliefs of your church are so strong and so deep. To leave affects your entire life, your family, your community, your sense of identity, your world view, and I know first hand what people go through. My students have shared their own similar painful stories. You are not the only one who has faced this level of judgement and pain. You will get through this and I’m here for you and I am so proud of you for standing up for yourself.”

It meant the world to have her support. Especially, considering I was not met with empathy as I shared my experience with others close to me. I understand why. In the church paradigm this was serious. This would affect my family and they were scared. I completely understand the fear. I of course want my people to support me. But that is not what this story is about.

This is not a story about who is the good guy and who is the bad guy.
Every person in this story is doing what they feel is best and is acting according to what they believe.
This is not a story about who is right and who is wrong.

This is a love story.

It is my story about love. Because the only way I could come to know what love was, was to learn what love was NOT. And dear friends, love is not conditions. It’s not something that can ever be taken away. It is not a reward for good behavior or compliance and conformity. It is who you are. But I could not learn this until I went through a year of hell to experience what conditional love is really like at its worst.

In the days after my conversation with the church leader, I continued to process the trauma. I was out hiking in beautiful unconditionally loving mother nature, when I recalled the words of one of my favorite teachers, Robert Edward Grant. He spoke about how he used to look at trauma as trauma, until he reframed and began to look at trauma as an initiation. So I asked myself, “what have I learned from this?”

Immediately, like a flash of light into my mind I felt the impact of one word so powerfully.

FREEDOM.

Yes. Freedom. I faced one of the scariest things my past self could have imagined. In some regards it was the culmination of all the judgement I had endured from family, friends, community, and followers.

I faced it.
And I survived.
And I was brave and courageous and my past self was astonished that I could do something so scary and survive all of it.
And what did surviving it teach me?

That I was free.

No man has power over me.
No man can take away my salvation.
No man or person or church or institution can destroy that which is everlasting.
Peace and love are always within me. It is who I am.
I am free.

Yesterday, I started reading a new book together with my daughter for her homeschool assignment. We have only read the first two chapters together, but so far the story has taught me a profound lesson. Allow me to summarize it with you…

Once upon a time in a land far far away, there was a boy in a village who wakes up early one morning to go to the river to gather water for his family. To his astonishment, he discovers that overnight, the river has lowered significantly. He runs home to report the news to his family and soon the entire village is confused and alarmed at this turn of events. The river has never done this before. Even the elders in the community cannot remember the river ever receding. They gather whatever water they can for the day and go about their work.

The next day, the river is even lower, and nearly dried up in many places. The people begin to panic. The river is their source of life. There are no other water sources in the area. There are no lakes, and no wells because the river has always provided exactly what they needed. They had built their life around the river by building their homes close by and innovating irrigation ditches to divert the water to their fields and crops. Without the river, they would not have the water they needed for their crops. They wouldn’t have the water they needed for their cooking, for their cleaning, and especially for their own sustenance.

On the third day, men on horseback wearing uniforms ride into their village. They have never seen these men before and don’t know where they came from. They declare that they know how to make the river come back. It will only cost the villagers 200 gold coins and they promise to make the water flow again. The villagers are astounded. How do they know how to make the water come back? Is there no other way besides trusting these men? 200 gold coins is a lot for the villagers to spare. Nonetheless, they feel they have no choice. So they pool together their resources and put faith in the soldiers to make the water come back.

The next day, to their astonishment, the river has begun to flow again. They rejoice and celebrate that the water has returned. But a few days later, the water again is low. The soldiers return and demand another 200 gold coins to make the water level rise. They pay again. Only to have the same pattern repeat every few days. Eventually they no longer have gold but the soldiers declare they will accept payment in the form of wood, crops, and goods.

The villagers don’t understand. Who are these men? How do they control the river? The village has no leader or government. They have always existed living in peace with one another and with the land. No hierarchy had been needed. To have someone reign over them and demand they pay for the river is foreign to their minds. Yet , they are afraid. They want to survive, and so they comply.

Friends, I don’t know the rest of the story, because I haven’t read it yet. I assume we are about to embark on an epic journey of the village reclaiming the river. But just reading that much I couldn’t help but think of the parallels to life and love.

Love is like the river. It is part of nature. It is abundant and life giving. And at one time in our history of humanity, I imagine we all lived in peace freely nourished upon its life giving sustenance. Until one day, someone came in and told us we needed to pay for it. That we needed to trust the soldiers who put themselves in charge and claimed they could give the river back to us.

Anyone who charges you for the river is putting conditions or payment on something that was already free. Something that was not theirs to take. It was meant for everyone. But in fear for our own survival, our own salvation, our own love and acceptance, we can comply with the conditions because we think it’s the only way. But love and acceptance is not owned by anyone. Salvation is not owned by anyone. God is not owned by anyone. Truth is not owned by anyone.

There’s another similar story about water that comes to mind. The story of Jesus and the Woman at the well. Jesus tells the woman,

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become IN them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Of course this sounds amazing, and the woman responds saying, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 4: 13-15)

For as long as I can remember I sought for love outside of myself. I sought for love in the approval of others. I sought for love by meeting all the conditions. I was coming to the well again and again to be filled. I was paying the 200 gold coins to have access to the river. And always, I had to keep coming back, because it would quench my thirst for only a moment but then I would thirst again.

Until I learned that I was free.
Until I learned that the river is not outside of me, but it is inside.
Love is who I am.

This wellspring inside is everlasting. When I drink from this spring, which only God can give because it is literally part of the creation of my body, my spirit, and all of nature, then I can be filled and never thirst. It is unconditional. It is the source of all life and love and peace. It is who we are.

The only thing that blocks us from this nourishment, is the judgements in our own mind about ourself, about God, about the world. We are blocked by the fear that we have to keep paying the 200 gold coins. But no one can put conditions on what is already freely given and part of who you are.

Now that I’ve had time to process all these experiences, I look back on what I’ve been through in the past year…

All the rejection.
All the judgement.
All the deep deep suffering…

I can now say it was the hardest best thing that could have ever happened to me. This trauma became an initiation.

I stopped thirsting for the love and approval of everyone outside of me.
I stopped paying the 200 gold coins and found the river within.

When I am living from the love that is always inside, life is fundamentally different in the most beautifully life giving way. I no longer see the rest of the world with the divide I had felt for so long.

For the first time since I was a little child–when the world taught me judgement and conditions–I once again see people of any culture, any lifestyle, any religion, any orientation, any political affiliation, any appearance, and no longer feel like they need to change anything about who they are for me to accept them. I can love them exactly as they are right now. This is new and wonderful and expansive for me.

I can also now say with heartfelt sincerity that I love all the people who have said hurtful and judgmental things to me.
I love all the people who have rejected me or will leave me after this episode. It’s okay. I love you too.
I love my church leader for the way he treated my situation. His interaction with me changed my life in the most amazing way possible.

I feel SO SO GRATEFUL. Now that I’m on the other side I can say that all of it was perfect. Contrast helps you see. It taught me the most important lessons of my life.

I am free.
I am love.
And the kingdom of God is within me.

Robert Edward Grant said, “True enlightenment comes when the desire for love super-cedes the need to be right.”

I look forward to the day when we can let go of the need for judgement of who is right and who is wrong because our desire for love wins out. This is when we awaken to who we really are. This is when we can live as one once again, without hierarchy and without soldiers controlling the river.

This only happens when we unlearn and remember…

When we remember who we really are and what love really is.
When we let go of the conditions and claim what has been ours all along.

This is my story of love.
The light in me honors the light in you.

Namaste.

Thank you, friends, for listening to my story. And please know that this is just my story. This is not me telling anyone they need to leave religion or communities they love. We all have our own unique journey through life to learn how to love and to remember who we are. We will all learn this in our own way. This is simply how my own own story unfolded. I share in hope that you will resonate with the principles and only take whatever inspires you to live with more love and less conditions in your own life. I shared my story in this episode only to give context to why I am so passionate about love and what has brought me to where I am today.

If you enjoy this podcast, it would mean so much if you would take the time to rate, review, and subscribe or share it with a friend. This is a brand new podcast and this does so much for helping this podcast to grow and reach more people.

As a thank you, I have also created a free “I love and accept you” meditation for you to practice unconditional love for yourself. Meditation is my favorite tool for unlearning our judgements and returning to unconditional love. Simply download the Co Create app from your App Store and you’ll find it waiting for you in the Free Meditations on the app. You can find a link to Apple or Google app stores in the shownotes of this episodes. Remember, You are love. Namaste.

SHOWNOTES:

Receive my free “I love and accept you” Meditation on the Co Create App.

Find it in the Apple App Store

Find it in the Google App Store

Hello friends! I’m continuing my personal story of my journey to unconditional love. In the last episode I spoke about how my image of who I believe God to be has evolved throughout my life from seeing God as a judge, to coming to see God as love.

Our personal conditioning has a lot to do with whatever image we perceive God to be. And because we are all unique beings, we each have our own way of internalizing the messages we receive from those around us. Even if you are raised in the same family, the same church, the same community, we all have our unique way have perceiving and interpreting the world around us. So as I share my own story today, please remember that this is only my experience and does not represent the experience of all people who may have been raised in the exact same environment as me.

I was born and raised in a High Demand Christian Religion. According to psychotherapynetworker.org, a high-demand, high-control religion is a faith community that

– requires obedience;
– discourages its members from questioning its rules, principles, and practices;
– expects subservience and loyalty;
– discourages trusting relationships outside the group;
– perpetuates the notion that those within the group are right and superior to those outside of it;
– promotes extreme or polarizing beliefs;
– and expects its members to suppress their authentic selves in exchange for the sense of belonging and security the group offers.

Though I’m sure that definition will make church members uncomfortable , it’s hard to deny that we meet every single one of those markers in one way or another.

On one hand, this level of demand and control can foster high character and morals. It can create high achievers and a striving to be your very best.

On the other hand, it can create toxic perfectionism, judgement, shame and guilt when you or someone else does not meet the ideal. Much of the toxic effects are suffered in silence and interpreted as something being wrong with you, because I have heard so many times, “the church is perfect but the people are not.”

I was raised by wonderful parents. The church was part of my heritage for multiple generations and the predominate religion of the state of Utah where I’ve lived most of my life. Because of this, all of my friends from grade school through graduate school were exclusively members of the church. It was the air I breathed. It was a society of conformity and there was very little diversity. Even secular settings like public school, the local government, or community events were highly influenced by the beliefs and paradigm of the church. You might consider it similar to growing up in an idyllic 1950s town. The people were kind, generous, and had high values. This was the only world I knew. It was a lovely way to grow up. I had a great childhood, I loved my college experience and I have loved living in Utah. It’s a great place to live.

When I attended Utah State University my friend group was still exclusively part of the church. It’s not to say there weren’t people on campus or in my community that were different. Of course there were. I just didn’t have close associations with them. I can’t think of a single close friend in twenty years of formal school who was not part of the church.

This wasn’t a conscious choice to only associate with those like me. I think it was simply a math equation. There was more of us than there was of them. And yes, that’s how I felt. There was a feeling of an in group and an out-group. Much of this feeling came from the church’s teachings of being the one true church in all the world and the only way to be saved and make it back to God. This claim was deeply influential on how I viewed myself and the rest of humanity. Even as I would meet other amazing people in the world, I always had a divide between me and the other person.

They’re a wonderful person, BUT, they don’t have the truth yet.
They seem happy and at peace, BUT, they don’t know what I know yet.
They are doing great things in the world, BUT, they’d really have it all if they became a member of the church…

There was always a BIG BUT sabotaging how I saw people not in the in-group of the church believers.

Or maybe I’d have negative judgements of others and their lifestyle, appearance, or actions. To that my mind would respond with an “if only”…

If only they joined the church their life would be better.
If only they joined the church, then they would find happiness.
If only they joined the church and conformed, then I could accept them.

In the last episode I shared with you how my views of God evolved from seeing God as a judge, to coming to experience God as unconditional love. Even though I was raised to believe that I was a chosen and elect person to be in God’s one and only true church, I started to experience extreme cognitive dissonance in this way of thinking.

If God loved everyone, how does that make me chosen and elect?
If God was really no respecter of persons, then I don’t think God sees humanity the way I had always seen them, as a black and white division of those who were saved and those who were not or a division of those who are on the one and only true path, and those who are not.

Many other things contributed to my cognitive dissonance, including learning more about the history of the church, the inequality of women, and the ways minority groups have been harshly treated. Things I had never questioned or noticed before because it was the air I breathed in a community of conformity and strict obedience. Now I couldn’t unsee it.

Most of all though was the massive disconnect I felt in who God was. In my personal meditations I was experiencing a very different God. I was coming to know a God that loved all people no matter what. I was coming to know a God who was not the judge. I was coming to know a God who gives liberally and upraideth not, one who is compassionate, one who does not have only one acceptable path, a God who does not operate in a system of transaction but a law of grace and love.

Attending church became more and more painful. What I was experiencing can be described in a beautiful parable taught by Jesus about the wheat and the tares. In the King James Bible the word tares is another word for weeds.

Jesus speaks about how the wheat and the tares are allowed to grow together until in the last days, the tares need to be plucked from the wheat so the wheat can be gathered in and the tares can be burned.

My whole life I had seen this parable as a metafore representing people. There were righteous people and there were wicked. The wicked were the tares and the righteous were the wheat. In the last days the wicked would be burned and the righteous would be saved. But as I came to know God as unconditional love, I could no longer see the parable with this application. To see people as tares is dehumanizing. It allows me to completely dismiss a soul, a creation of God, to be burned and destroyed. It pits people against one another in division.

Instead, I saw this parable as a metafore representing beliefs and ideas:
There are ideas that are wheat and ideas that are tares.
In other words, There are beliefs that are true and beliefs that are false.
There are traditions that are true. There are traditions that are false.

The wheat and tares have been allowed to grow together for a long time, and in the last days they need to be sifted. The false ideas and beliefs need to be rooted out and burned and the true beliefs need to be gathered in.

At church I would hear wheat over the pulpit and I would hear tares.
I would hear wheat in the hymns sung and I would hear tares.
I would read wheat in the scriptures and read tares in the scriptures.
I would hear wheat from the top leaders of the church and I would hear tares.

Every single tare I heard or read would feel like a fiery arrow to my heart. It hurt deeply. Wheat and tares for me could be boiled down to that which is love and that which is not.

It became too painful for me to keep attending church. My body would go through a physical reaction being in the building, let alone singing songs and listening to sermons that had any trace of a tare somewhere within. I would cry instead of sing, and feel every tare spoken. It’s not to say there wasn’t wheat. There was. But the tares hurt so much my gaping wounds couldn’t be ignored to just focus only on the good. The God I was experiencing in meditation was no longer the same God I was experiencing in church. What I was being told to think and believe was not matching up with my own lived experience. For my own mental health and wellbeing I quietly stopped attending. I completely stepped away.

Only there was one big problem. To do this was to remove myself from my entire support network. My family, my friends, my community, my followers, my business. It was my whole world. And turns out, nothing about this was going to be quiet.

My family has experienced their own trauma as I have tried to navigate this path. Out of respect for their privacy I’m not going to share those personal stories. I will say I have felt painfully alone. I have been faced with balancing the need to follow the path that is correct for me while also honoring the path they feel is correct for them–all while trying to practice non judgement. Balancing this in a mixed faith marriage and mixed faith parenting is no small thing.

It was with this in mind that I created my final podcast of The Brooke Snow Podcast, and announced I had gone through a faith expansion as I believe there to be many paths to God. I honor whatever path someone feels is correct for them. Because that podcast was built over five years of speaking exclusively to those in the church, I knew it would be a shock and a disappointment to many people. It took me five months after I stopped attending church to get up the courage to even share that episode publicly.

Even though I believe in an unconditionally loving God, I have battled severe guilt and shame over leaving. I was taught to fear the consequences of anyone who ever left and to see them as evil and deceived. I know this isn’t true as my adult self, but I have been haunted by the conditioning of 40+years that doesn’t go away overnight. I have to pause regularly and address the fearful cries of my inner child. The thing she is most afraid of is not God or her eternal salvation. She loves God and feels safe with God. The thing she is most afraid of is rejection from the community. She knows what she was taught to believe about those who leave. She knows what the judgements are and what people think and she’s so afraid of the rejection.

And, her fears are not unfounded. Everything she was most afraid of happening came true. And beyond.

Publicly, I was intentionally vague on what a faith expansion meant to me because I feel it’s deeply personal and dynamic. I didn’t think it was anyone’s business what my church status was. I didn’t want to alienate myself coming right and out and saying I no longer participate, and I certainly didn’t want others to think I was putting judgement on them or the church if they were devout believers. But with my vague explanation, people were quick to assume and fill in the blanks with their own stories and judgements. I was astonished how mean and hateful people could be when they didn’t agree with someone else’s path. And of course, I took all of their words personally.

I was told I was going to hell.
I was told Satan was controlling me.
I was cancelled, rejected, unfollowed, and judged mercilessly.
I watched strangers cruely gossip about me in my own Instagram thread as if I wasn’t there.
I was told about the local gossip in my congregation regarding my absence and shocked to hear what some of my neighbors were saying behind my back. These were people I’d grown up with and loved and respected. Instead of talking to me they talked about me like I was a problem to be fixed or a case to be mourned.

Many in my closest circles struggled to understand me and some even betrayed me in the most heartbreaking way. Many days I wished I could just die so I wouldn’t have to feel the pain of this level of rejection any longer. It hurt so deeply.

This was a lonely time. It felt like there was hardly anyone I could trust in the church to still love me. I will love you IF you believe like me. I was shocked to discover how much power I placed in others opinion of me. If others loved me, then I gave myself permission to love myself. If others did not love me, then something must be wrong with who I am.

The public ridicule and private heartbreak took their toll. I would regularly break down crying from the memories of rejection. I would feel panic at the thought of going places like the grocery store or community events because it was inevitable I’d run into someone I knew from the church. But what caused the most anxiety was people I didn’t know. Strangers in the past often approached me in public who recognized me from my podcast to tell me how much they loved my work.

As soon as I publicly acknowledged my faith expansion and began receiving hateful messages, I began to feel terror in public. I’d pass a person in the store who looked as if they recognized me and I would instantly think, “Do they know me? Do they hate me? Have they judged me too?” My heart would pound and I would replay all the harsh comments spoken by others, assuming all people felt the same.

I have spent years taming my own inner critic but the voices of other people as critics in my mind was something else entirely.

Did every single person in the church really hate me and reject me? Of course not. Most people have remained silent. The haters are likely the minority, but they are loud and having it be public made it feel a thousands times bigger and my mind fixated on cycling these memories repeatedly through my mind, thus creating the reality I lived in. It was hard to deny my reality because I had so much evidence. I had actual statements people have said. I had actual betrayal and heartbreak in my relationships. My mind made everything feel very real to me. It was my reality.

In time I gained 25 pounds from the stress and trauma. My hormones were wrecked. I soon had chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue, and depression from the constant state of fearing rejection and feeling so achingly alone. Alone in my own home. Alone in my community. Alone in the world.

Instead of starting a new podcast immediately as I had originally planned, I felt called to take a long break. I needed time to recover and I needed space away from other people’s judgements. I laid low and worked on healing the scared inner child inside me and practiced self love and acceptance.

As the year went on, I lost hundreds of app subscribers, hundreds of followers on social media, and thousands of email unsubscribes. My income nose dived. Even the famous church book publication company that had commissioned me to teach a meditation course removed it without notice. I had been erased. After an entire lifetime of doing all the right things to be accepted and climbing the status within church culture the fall was far. The rejection deeply hurt.

I knew honoring my own path could risk me losing a lot. Why? Because literally my entire life is connected to the church. My marriage, my family, my business, my reputation, my friends… in some ways I faired much better than my fears. In other ways it was so much worse than I could have ever expected.

Some may wonder why put so much at risk? Just stay in the boat. Don’t rock it. Your life will be so much easier. On the surface yes. But living your life in order to keep everyone around you comfortable comes at a very high cost to your own soul. Especially when your soul is clearly calling you to a different path. My body was already paying the price. It was not sustainable let alone a life of peace and happiness.

A month before I launched the One Heart Podcast I got an unexpected text from a high ranking church leader who was over all the local congregations in my area. At this point I haven’t attended church in over nine months in my plan to quietly disappear and remove myself from the perpetual trauma of hearing tares mixed into the teachings and the preaching of what felt to me like a transactional God. He said he wanted to talk with me about my business and podcast. I replied back that I didn’t see how my business and podcast was church business. Five minutes later he called me on the phone.

Apparently this was serious. Within the first minute of speaking he got right to the point saying, “I know you are no longer attending. I just want you to know that I have downloaded your app and I have read the transcript to your final podcast on your website and if you ever say anything that goes against the church doctrine your membership will be removed.”

There was no effort to seek first to understand and then seek to be understood. Instead it was an immediate threat of excommunication.

I calmly responded saying, “Okay. You have downloaded my app, do you see anything that concerns you on there?”

He said, “Well no… but there could be in the future. And you told people in your final podcast that there is more than one way to God. You’re welcome to think whatever you want, and even privately talk about it with your husband or even in the halls at church, but the moment you publicly say something like that it becomes a problem. Telling people there is more than one path could lead people out of the church. It could lead people to stop following the prophet.”

Apparently he missed my disclaimer. That really important line in big bold font on the transcript that says, “my purpose in sharing this is not to lead anyone out of the church, but rather to save relationships. If this can offer a compassionate point of view of those who leave, a view that might honor the journey others take without having to judge them as sinners, and therefore save important relationships, this is why I share.”

We spoke for thirty minutes. Over and over again he warned me of losing my membership.

There wasn’t technically anything I had done that warranted excommunication, this was more about what I could do in the future. The whole conversation was baffling to me. I had loyally given my money, my time, my talents, and my entire life to the church. And the moment I questioned anything and shared publicly in the most loving way I could that I personally needed to take a different path, I was not met with compassion, I was met with rejection. I was met with warnings to stay silent or risk excommunication.

To people outside the church, excommunication might not seem like a big deal, especially if you no longer want to be part of the church. In my case, I have a believing family whom I love very much, who believes my membership is the only way for our family to still be together in the next life and the only way I will make it to heaven. It’s of great importance to my family. Excommunication is also social death in a community saturated with believers. It is the church’s form of shunning and there is really nothing more shaming than being rejected by the church–who is seen as God’s judges in Israel. They claim to speak for God. So if they reject you, then people see this as God rejecting you, which means you are the worst kind of sinner. Not only does this illicit judgmental gossip, it alienates you from your community because now you are officially seen as someone not in the fold. I know I would eventually be able to heal from this rejection. But I certainly didn’t want to inflict any of that shame and judgement and alienation on my children or family.

I can’t imagine Jesus, in his parable of the lost sheep, leaving the 99 sheep in the fold and finding the one sheep who had left and immediately saying, “I know you left. You need to know that if you ever say anything different than what we believe, you are officially out of the flock.”

It doesn’t align whatsoever with the God I have come to know for myself.

This church leader wanted to know my future plans. What was I going to do going forward? I told him about the One Heart Podcast I’d be starting soon and my intention to teach about love. He immediately reissued the same warning. “If you ever say anything that is against the doctrine of the church your membership will be removed. I will be listening to your podcast.”

“Well”, I said, “if I unconditional love is against church doctrine then my days are numbered. Jesus went down for love and I’m willing to do the same.”

The conversation ended and he immediately sent a follow up text saying if I ever wanted to meet with him he could answer all my questions. He assured me there was an explanation for every one of my concerns about church doctrine.

I declined his invitation saying I was no longer interested in making the doctrine perfect. Because it’s not. We can dance around and make up stories about why the tares exist and how we should not question them and just accept them on faith, or maybe we could pluck them out. But until the church can acknowledge the doctrine contains both wheat and tares, apparently they will continue to just pluck out the people.

I was pretty electrified by the conversation. On one hand, I was fiercely proud of myself. I didn’t stay small. I stood up for myself. I spoke my truth and had nothing to hide. On the other hand, I had just endured what my past self would consider to be the scariest most shameful judgement that could ever occur. Threat of rejection from a person who was seen in a position standing for God and the possibility of public rejection from my entire community.

This can be traumatizing. Psychologist, Abraham Maslow in his famous pyramid of the hierarchy of needs lists the need for love and belonging just above our basic needs for survival. This is a fundamental need of all humans on the planet. We need to feel like we are loved and that we belong in our community in order to grow and thrive.

The following day I was in my yoga class and made it thirty minutes into class before crumpling onto the floor in child’s pose in uncontrollable sobs. My body went into a delayed trauma response and I just curled up in the fetal position and cried and shook. Ugly cry. With snot everywhere. And it lasted for thirty minutes before I could calm myself.

I have to pause and acknowledge the compassion of the yoga community. The woman on the mat next to me is also a yoga teacher. While the rest of class continued on, she paused and came over to me and silently rubbed my back to soothe and hold space for my trauma response. Afterwards she asked for no details, only hugged me, placed both hands on my shoulders looking square into my eyes and assured me that whatever I was going through, however big the existential crisis may be, that I would get through this. That I was held. That I was loved. That I would make it through. Many of my other yoga friends came and hugged me, also honoring my privacy and simply held space with no judgement. This is what an unconditionally loving community looks like.

This sweet yoga teacher later reached out to me and offered a listening ear if I needed someone to talk with. I then shared my story of what had occurred with the church leader and her response was so empathetic. She is an English professor at the local University, and though she has never been part of the church, she confided that over the years she has read so many personal essays from her students who are in pain and deeply suffering from their own experiences in the church. She said,

“Brooke, you leaving is a big deal. This is not like saying, “oh I’m just not going to be Methodist anymore. The founding story and beliefs of your church are so strong and so deep. To leave affects your entire life, your family, your community, your sense of identity, your world view, and I know first hand what people go through. My students have shared their own similar painful stories. You are not the only one who has faced this level of judgement and pain. You will get through this and I’m here for you and I am so proud of you for standing up for yourself.”

It meant the world to have her support. Especially, considering I was not met with empathy as I shared my experience with others close to me. I understand why. In the church paradigm this was serious. This would affect my family and they were scared. I completely understand the fear. I of course want my people to support me. But that is not what this story is about.

This is not a story about who is the good guy and who is the bad guy.
Every person in this story is doing what they feel is best and is acting according to what they believe.
This is not a story about who is right and who is wrong.

This is a love story.

It is my story about love. Because the only way I could come to know what love was, was to learn what love was NOT. And dear friends, love is not conditions. It’s not something that can ever be taken away. It is not a reward for good behavior or compliance and conformity. It is who you are. But I could not learn this until I went through a year of hell to experience what conditional love is really like at its worst.

In the days after my conversation with the church leader, I continued to process the trauma. I was out hiking in beautiful unconditionally loving mother nature, when I recalled the words of one of my favorite teachers, Robert Edward Grant. He spoke about how he used to look at trauma as trauma, until he reframed and began to look at trauma as an initiation. So I asked myself, “what have I learned from this?”

Immediately, like a flash of light into my mind I felt the impact of one word so powerfully.

FREEDOM.

Yes. Freedom. I faced one of the scariest things my past self could have imagined. In some regards it was the culmination of all the judgement I had endured from family, friends, community, and followers.

I faced it.
And I survived.
And I was brave and courageous and my past self was astonished that I could do something so scary and survive all of it.
And what did surviving it teach me?

That I was free.

No man has power over me.
No man can take away my salvation.
No man or person or church or institution can destroy that which is everlasting.
Peace and love are always within me. It is who I am.
I am free.

Yesterday, I started reading a new book together with my daughter for her homeschool assignment. We have only read the first two chapters together, but so far the story has taught me a profound lesson. Allow me to summarize it with you…

Once upon a time in a land far far away, there was a boy in a village who wakes up early one morning to go to the river to gather water for his family. To his astonishment, he discovers that overnight, the river has lowered significantly. He runs home to report the news to his family and soon the entire village is confused and alarmed at this turn of events. The river has never done this before. Even the elders in the community cannot remember the river ever receding. They gather whatever water they can for the day and go about their work.

The next day, the river is even lower, and nearly dried up in many places. The people begin to panic. The river is their source of life. There are no other water sources in the area. There are no lakes, and no wells because the river has always provided exactly what they needed. They had built their life around the river by building their homes close by and innovating irrigation ditches to divert the water to their fields and crops. Without the river, they would not have the water they needed for their crops. They wouldn’t have the water they needed for their cooking, for their cleaning, and especially for their own sustenance.

On the third day, men on horseback wearing uniforms ride into their village. They have never seen these men before and don’t know where they came from. They declare that they know how to make the river come back. It will only cost the villagers 200 gold coins and they promise to make the water flow again. The villagers are astounded. How do they know how to make the water come back? Is there no other way besides trusting these men? 200 gold coins is a lot for the villagers to spare. Nonetheless, they feel they have no choice. So they pool together their resources and put faith in the soldiers to make the water come back.

The next day, to their astonishment, the river has begun to flow again. They rejoice and celebrate that the water has returned. But a few days later, the water again is low. The soldiers return and demand another 200 gold coins to make the water level rise. They pay again. Only to have the same pattern repeat every few days. Eventually they no longer have gold but the soldiers declare they will accept payment in the form of wood, crops, and goods.

The villagers don’t understand. Who are these men? How do they control the river? The village has no leader or government. They have always existed living in peace with one another and with the land. No hierarchy had been needed. To have someone reign over them and demand they pay for the river is foreign to their minds. Yet , they are afraid. They want to survive, and so they comply.

Friends, I don’t know the rest of the story, because I haven’t read it yet. I assume we are about to embark on an epic journey of the village reclaiming the river. But just reading that much I couldn’t help but think of the parallels to life and love.

Love is like the river. It is part of nature. It is abundant and life giving. And at one time in our history of humanity, I imagine we all lived in peace freely nourished upon its life giving sustenance. Until one day, someone came in and told us we needed to pay for it. That we needed to trust the soldiers who put themselves in charge and claimed they could give the river back to us.

Anyone who charges you for the river is putting conditions or payment on something that was already free. Something that was not theirs to take. It was meant for everyone. But in fear for our own survival, our own salvation, our own love and acceptance, we can comply with the conditions because we think it’s the only way. But love and acceptance is not owned by anyone. Salvation is not owned by anyone. God is not owned by anyone. Truth is not owned by anyone.

There’s another similar story about water that comes to mind. The story of Jesus and the Woman at the well. Jesus tells the woman,

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become IN them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Of course this sounds amazing, and the woman responds saying, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 4: 13-15)

For as long as I can remember I sought for love outside of myself. I sought for love in the approval of others. I sought for love by meeting all the conditions. I was coming to the well again and again to be filled. I was paying the 200 gold coins to have access to the river. And always, I had to keep coming back, because it would quench my thirst for only a moment but then I would thirst again.

Until I learned that I was free.
Until I learned that the river is not outside of me, but it is inside.
Love is who I am.

This wellspring inside is everlasting. When I drink from this spring, which only God can give because it is literally part of the creation of my body, my spirit, and all of nature, then I can be filled and never thirst. It is unconditional. It is the source of all life and love and peace. It is who we are.

The only thing that blocks us from this nourishment, is the judgements in our own mind about ourself, about God, about the world. We are blocked by the fear that we have to keep paying the 200 gold coins. But no one can put conditions on what is already freely given and part of who you are.

Now that I’ve had time to process all these experiences, I look back on what I’ve been through in the past year…

All the rejection.
All the judgement.
All the deep deep suffering…

I can now say it was the hardest best thing that could have ever happened to me. This trauma became an initiation.

I stopped thirsting for the love and approval of everyone outside of me.
I stopped paying the 200 gold coins and found the river within.

When I am living from the love that is always inside, life is fundamentally different in the most beautifully life giving way. I no longer see the rest of the world with the divide I had felt for so long.

For the first time since I was a little child–when the world taught me judgement and conditions–I once again see people of any culture, any lifestyle, any religion, any orientation, any political affiliation, any appearance, and no longer feel like they need to change anything about who they are for me to accept them. I can love them exactly as they are right now. This is new and wonderful and expansive for me.

I can also now say with heartfelt sincerity that I love all the people who have said hurtful and judgmental things to me.
I love all the people who have rejected me or will leave me after this episode. It’s okay. I love you too.
I love my church leader for the way he treated my situation. His interaction with me changed my life in the most amazing way possible.

I feel SO SO GRATEFUL. Now that I’m on the other side I can say that all of it was perfect. Contrast helps you see. It taught me the most important lessons of my life.

I am free.
I am love.
And the kingdom of God is within me.

Robert Edward Grant said, “True enlightenment comes when the desire for love super-cedes the need to be right.”

I look forward to the day when we can let go of the need for judgement of who is right and who is wrong because our desire for love wins out. This is when we awaken to who we really are. This is when we can live as one once again, without hierarchy and without soldiers controlling the river.

This only happens when we unlearn and remember…

When we remember who we really are and what love really is.
When we let go of the conditions and claim what has been ours all along.

This is my story of love.
The light in me honors the light in you.

Namaste.

Thank you, friends, for listening to my story. And please know that this is just my story. This is not me telling anyone they need to leave religion or communities they love. We all have our own unique journey through life to learn how to love and to remember who we are. We will all learn this in our own way. This is simply how my own own story unfolded. I share in hope that you will resonate with the principles and only take whatever inspires you to live with more love and less conditions in your own life. I shared my story in this episode only to give context to why I am so passionate about love and what has brought me to where I am today.

If you enjoy this podcast, it would mean so much if you would take the time to rate, review, and subscribe or share it with a friend. This is a brand new podcast and this does so much for helping this podcast to grow and reach more people.

As a thank you, I have also created a free “I love and accept you” meditation for you to practice unconditional love for yourself. Meditation is my favorite tool for unlearning our judgements and returning to unconditional love. Simply download the Co Create app from your App Store and you’ll find it waiting for you in the Free Meditations on the app. You can find a link to Apple or Google app stores in the shownotes of this episodes. Remember, You are love. Namaste.

SHOWNOTES:

Receive my free “I love and accept you” Meditation on the Co Create App.

Find it in the Apple App Store

Find it in the Google App Store

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