Jessica And Her Coat Of Many Colors

 Galatians 5.1

A year or more ago I was miserable.  In a deep depression. Unable to even believe God was real anymore.


I had been swimming, drowning, in legalism for a couple of years.  Living in a spiritually oppressive environment.  Shackled to rules and unreasonable expectations.


The Bible Belt almost broke me.  A world where only hyper-conservative, right wing, classical homeschooling was the way of Christ and anything different is mocked and looked down upon.  Where Calvinism abolishes your ability to pray for your atheist friend.  Where wine is the devils drink. Where church attendance and belief in the right set of history saves you but no one even attempts to love and serve their neighbor.


Slowly, the bonds of slavery clanked tight around me feet, and then my heart, and then my tongue.


I couldn’t move in Christ.  I couldn’t think in Christ.  I couldn’t breathe in Christ.


I could only lay in bed at night, weeping and gnashing my teeth in the hedge of fire that had been created around me.  I felt nothing but guilt, all the time.  Nothing but inadequacy. Nothing but failure.  Every time I wasn’t perfectly loving to my children, every time I didn’t channel my inner Kirk Cameron and ask the lady at the drive thru window if she had ever told a lie …


I probably would have drowned there with that sea of legalism separating me from a loving God.


But then a miracle disguised as a disaster happened.  My proverbial brothers in Christ saw me grasping at grace and greatness and with jealousy in their heart they said,  “Here comes the dreamer!”


And then they threw me down a well.


I’m not going to lie, I sat there at the bottom of my well and cried a little.  But then I dusted myself off and recognized the opportunity that had been given me, the freedom to pursue truth with less barriers.  A few others quickly recognized that potential as well, and welcomed me to be in charge of a few things within their stain-glassed Body. I thought maybe I could find happiness in my Egypt.


But the honeymoon didn’t last.  I was less scared this time, less crippled by guilt, more willing to respectfully stand up for what I believed in.


Egyptians don’t like that.


And so I found myself unsupported again.  Thrown in proverbial jail, disconnected from the organization that I only wanted to help.


The green eyed monster is alive and well in Christ’s Church.


However, whatever my “enemies” intentions were, God used it for good. Because it wasn’t until I was completely free of mere rules taught by men that I could finally experience the glorious freedom found in Christ.


Now freedom is my anthem, my mantra.  Freedom, grace, and love.


It is for freedom that Christ set me free.  So I won’t let myself be burdened again by the yoke of religious slavery.


I found a lot of things within the four walls of church.  I found rules.  I found traditions.  I found oppression.  I found snobbery.  I found big-headedness.  And all of these things perfumed with the sickly sweet scent of good intentions.


But I never found Christ.


Sure, I found words about him, teachings about him.  But I never found Him.  His love and acceptance and freedom and Spirit.  Especially not his Spirit.


So that’s why I can’t truly be mad at my brothers, my jailers. Because in the end, they set me free.





  1. WOW Jessica. I wish I could spend about 4 hours talking about all of this with you. I’d love to hear more about your story. I’m not sure whether I’m at the bottom of the well or imprisoned in Egypt, but I recognize my story in yours.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I’m currently recovering from spiritual abuse myself. Some of the abuse came from others (specifically, a family I almost married into), and some of it came from myself (if that’s even possible).

    • Jessica says:

      I know what you mean, so much of my problem was me in my own head convincing myself I was terrible. If that makes sense.

  3. Jessica says:

    Thank you for sharing your story! I experienced the same, legalism and condemnation, in the short 8 yrs we attended different churches. But I guess it was just long enough to get in my heart. For the past 2-3 yrs I have been finding out how much God loves me. Not something I experienced in the church building. There is no more condemnation in Christ, but that is not what most of the church is being taught. Sad that they can’t receive this freedom and Grace that was already purchased for them. Thanks for saying what I think many of us want to say, but don’t know how!

  4. Oh I love love love LOVE this post, Jessica! I see much of our own story in what you shared here.

  5. Amen sista! Thank you for putting this out there, you preach it!

  6. I found your blog last night on Rachel Held Evans’ Sunday Superlatives, and I’m so glad I did. I poked around a bit, and found this post, and wow. I could have written most of this. The legalism, the guilt, the doubt, the depression- I’ve experienced all of that. I’ve found freedom, within myself, and am truly learning how to love Christ and have Him love me. But at the same time, I’m still in a very frustrated place right now because those around me only ridicule me for it, for being different and not just accepting the way things have always been.

    It’s obviously a really long story and I’m not going to share it all on your comments. ;) But thank you for this post- I can relate to it so, so much. And that last line- that’s something to chew on.

    • Glad you poked around! It’s fun to be reminded of old posts. Sometimes I say pretty things. :)

  7. I grew up in a liberal home but I found out pretty quick if you try to conform yourself to Christianity by following the churched, you end up Christless. I have found the better way…and po’d a few along the way. But I know the One I follow. He’s got my back.

  8. Much <3 to my soul sister! Glad to know I am not alone in the Freedom & Grace of Christ!

  9. Thank you for sharing…still trying to figure out where I should be and why I don’t fit.

  10. Until today I didn’t think there was anyone else that could really understand what I’ve gone through with the church and how I feel today. I’ve spent some time reading through your posts. You totally get it. I started sobbing when I read this post and again when I read others. I couldnt’ stop thanking God for leading me to you. Today for the first time I dont’ feel alone. Ever since I was a newly saved drug addict I questioned “the church” and it’s purpose and it didn’t sit right with me for some reason. Right after I got saved I tried to visit a church but felt immediate condemnation for how I was dressed and didn’t feel wecome. I told my boyfriend that I would go to church when I could afford better clothes.

    So for 2 years I devoured the bible on my own and focused on studying the life of Jesus. I talked to him like he was my friend. It finally came that I could afford clothes that would be acceptable to wear in a church and thus began my journey into church and other believers. I was sucked up into church and performing and that fit me well because I was starving for fellow believers and wanted to be accepted. Along the way I ended up training for youth ministry as that was and still is my passion. I worked for free for a church and was suppose to be the hired youth minister and get paid for the many hours I was already putting in for them. They ate me up and spit me out. They used me and I got an inside look into things I wish I had never seen of people in the ministry and leadership positions. There is so much more but I won’t get into all that. Promises were made to me but I learned that when you are a minister you can do that and not keep them. I trusted them and they smashed me to the ground. When I started working with the youth there were 8 teens. By the time I had to walk away, there were over 200. The thing is I wasn’t drawing the “right” kind of kids…ya know the kind that will get their parents to come…the kind that have money. The kids I drew had tatoo’s, peircings, acohol and drug issues, were teen parents, came from very messed up families or no family at all….the kind that didn’t have money to give to the church. These kids came hungry and thirsty for Jesus and they would come back for more and bring more friends. It was amazing to watch Jesus transform their lives and we became their family.

    But I was a woman and not high enough class. I wasn’t drawing the class of people they wanted so they gutted me out. It killed me. It got to the point that I couldn’t walk into the church without throwing up. I walked away in 1999 but I didn’t walk away from God. Not entirely. I didn’t step foot in another church until this past September. I started going to a church because of my 7 year old desiring to go. That is a whole nother story and already I’ve written you a book. I am still not sold on church. I am still very careful and honestly I don’t really know anyone and they don’t know me or my story. I have a feeling that they sense a wall up a;round me. I am so fricken scared and not sure of what. I am not sure if this is what we should be doing. All I know is that I believe so differently now…not about God/Jesus/bible but about the church and it’s purpose. There are so many hurting hungry people and what are we doing about it? I think the church is suppose to be something more than what I’ve known. And going through all this has affected my life and made me a differnet person. My eye’s are wide open and I”m not sure about all that I am seeing.

    All I know is you are a God send to me. I am eating up your words as fast as I can read them. Thank you for sharing your story. I know you wrote this almost a year ago but today it is meeting me where I am at. God bless you and your husband and family and all that he has in store for you!