My Faith Story

My Faith Story

Becoming “Born Again”

(And a real American)

I was raised in a tiny town in the middle of good ol’ Midwestern cornfields. When I was 12-years-old and joined the local church youth group, I discovered the meaning of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and became a passionate, outspoken Evangelical Christian. Growing up as a minority in a predominantly White town, up until that point, I was very confused about who I was, and I wasn’t sure how to fit in. When I became a born-again Christian, I finally had an identity that made sense to me, as well as a sense of meaning and purpose. Additionally, becoming Christian was a right-of-passage of sorts into being accepted as a “real American.”  I was finally able to find common ground with the people in my community and find a way to connect.

I didn’t understand how a good God could allow so much evil.

My Existential Crisis

After high school, I went to college at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinoisthe epitome of Evangelical colleges. As a Sociology major, I became very interested in issues of social justice. When I started learning about social inequality, poverty, oppression, and other social problems, I became incredibly angry with God and mistrusting of the church and Christians. I didn’t understand how a good God could allow so much evil and how there were so many wealthy Christians in the world who just didn’t seem to care.

Additionally, several of my friends came out to me about being gay, and seeing how painful and shaming it was for them to have to struggle with this secret “sin” confused and angered me further. I was extremely disillusioned, my faith was shaken, and I wanted to know if what I had believed about a loving and omniscient God all of these years was true.

Conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy

Despite my anger and confusion, I was not ready to give up my faith. My personal relationship with Jesus was the most important relationship in my life, and my entire identity and philosophy on life centered around trying to be a good Christian. Seeking for the Truth, I delved into studying Christianity not only theologically, but also as a historical and sociological phenomenon. What I found was a long history of oppression, discrimination, and justification of incredible evils in the name of Christianity. Nonetheless, I recognized that just because people have used religion to justify evil acts doesn’t mean the religion itself is bad.

To add to my confusion, I had studied many different theological viewpoints by this point and had attended over two dozen churches. I desired with all of my heart to know what the Truth was, but it was so hard to know when every Christian I talked with seemed to have a different version of the truth. This eventually led me to the Eastern Orthodox Church. I learned that this ancient church had a lineage of apostolic succession that dated all the way back to the time of the early apostles and that they had passed down the same belief system over a period of thousands of years. In my mind, if any church had the correct version of Truth, it must be the Orthodox!

I desired with all of my heart to know what the Truth was, but it was so hard to know when every Christian I talked with seemed to have a different version of the truth.

It didn’t feel right for me to sit across from a person who was gay and hold a worldview that says that their sexual orientation kept them separated from God.

Outside the Bubble

After five years of participating in the Orthodox Church, I started salsa dancing. This exposed me to a diverse group of friends who did not all come from Christian backgrounds. I started to question the Orthodox Church’s claim that we need the Holy Spirit and the Sacraments to be like God. These friends were just as morally and socially conscious as any Christian I had ever met, so who were Christians to say that their way is the one right way? On top of this, I had never resolved my issues with the Church’s stance on homosexuality. I was working as a therapist at that point, and it didn’t feel right for me to sit across from a person who was gay and hold a worldview that says that their sexual orientation kept them separated from God. When I talked with my priest about this, his answer came down to the question, “Who is the ultimate authority on Truth: you or the Church?” At that point, I realized that ultimately, I trusted more in myself than in the Church. My worldview was simply not in line with Christianity anymore.

What I Believe Now

I’m still on a journey of faith, and I believe I always will be. At this point, I do not identify with any particular belief system. I love learning about all religions and philosophies, and I draw from the concepts that resonate with me and seek to understand more about the ones that don’t. I do believe that there is some kind of “life force,” and I pay respects to the various ways people perceive and describe this life force, whether it be through science, religion, spirituality, nature, etc.

There is an Indian parable about four blind men who are touching different parts of an elephant, describing what they feel. Naturally, their descriptions do not line up, and they can’t understand how they can all have completely different explanations for what they are experiencing, yet all be correct. I see the life force in the same way. We all see and experience life and the world through our own unique lens, and there is legitimacy behind why each of us believes what we believe.

I do not believe that my clients have to hold the same worldview that I do in order to find healing and happiness in life. Whether or not my clients decide to stay affiliated with a particular religious group or belief system, my hope for all of my clients is that they can come to a place where they are able to love and accept all parts of who they are and find communities that can do the same.

We all see and experience life and the world through our own unique lens, and there is legitimacy behind why each of us believes what we believe.

Becoming “Born Again” (And a real American)

I was raised in a tiny town in the middle of good ol’ Midwestern cornfields. When I was 12-years-old and joined the local church youth group, I discovered the meaning of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and became a passionate, outspoken Evangelical Christian. Growing up as a minority in a predominantly White town, up until that point, I was very confused about who I was, and I wasn’t sure how to fit in. When I became a born-again Christian, I finally had an identity that made sense to me, as well as a sense of meaning and purpose. Additionally, becoming Christian was a right-of-passage of sorts into being accepted as a “real American.”  I was finally able to find common ground with the people in my community and find a way to connect.

My Existential Crisis

After high school, I went to college at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinoisthe epitome of Evangelical colleges. As a Sociology major, I became very interested in issues of social justice. When I started learning about social inequality, poverty, oppression, and other social problems, I became incredibly angry with God and mistrusting of the church and Christians. I didn’t understand how a good God could allow so much evil and how there were so many wealthy Christians in the world who just didn’t seem to care.

Additionally, several of my friends came out to me about being gay, and seeing how painful and shaming it was for them to have to struggle with this secret “sin” confused and angered me further. I was extremely disillusioned, my faith was shaken, and I wanted to know if what I had believed about a loving and omniscient God all of these years was true.

Conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy

Despite my anger and confusion, I was not ready to give up my faith. My personal relationship with Jesus was the most important relationship in my life, and my entire identity and philosophy on life centered around trying to be a good Christian. Seeking for the Truth, I delved into studying Christianity not only theologically, but also as a historical and sociological phenomenon. What I found was a long history of oppression, discrimination, and justification of incredible evils in the name of Christianity. Nonetheless, I recognized that just because people have used religion to justify evil acts doesn’t mean the religion itself is bad.

To add to my confusion, I had studied many different theological viewpoints by this point and had attended over two dozen churches. I desired with all of my heart to know what the Truth was, but it was so hard to know when every Christian I talked with seemed to have a different version of the truth. This eventually led me to the Eastern Orthodox Church. I learned that this ancient church had a lineage of apostolic succession that dated all the way back to the time of the early apostles and that they had passed down the same belief system over a period of thousands of years. In my mind, if any church had the correct version of Truth, it must be the Orthodox!

Outside the Bubble

After five years of participating in the Orthodox Church, I started salsa dancing. This exposed me to a diverse group of friends who did not all come from Christian backgrounds. I started to question the Orthodox Church’s claim that we need the Holy Spirit and the Sacraments to be like God. These friends were just as morally and socially conscious as any Christian I had ever met, so who were Christians to say that their way is the one right way? On top of this, I had never resolved my issues with the Church’s stance on homosexuality. I was working as a therapist at that point, and it didn’t feel right for me to sit across from a person who was gay and hold a worldview that says that their sexual orientation kept them separated from God. When I talked with my priest about this, his answer came down to the question, “Who is the ultimate authority on Truth: you or the Church?” At that point, I realized that ultimately, I trusted more in myself than in the Church. My worldview was simply not in line with Christianity anymore.

What I Believe Now

I’m still on a journey of faith, and I believe I always will be. At this point, I do not identify with any particular belief system. I love learning about all religions and philosophies, and I draw from the concepts that resonate with me and seek to understand more about the ones that don’t. I do believe that there is some kind of “life force,” and I pay respects to the various ways people perceive and describe this life force, whether it be through science, religion, spirituality, nature, etc.

There is an Indian parable about four blind men who are touching different parts of an elephant, describing what they feel. Naturally, their descriptions do not line up, and they can’t understand how they can all have completely different explanations for what they are experiencing, yet all be correct. I see the life force in the same way. We all see and experience life and the world through our own unique lens, and there is legitimacy behind why each of us believes what we believe.

I do not believe that my clients have to hold the same worldview that I do in order to find healing and happiness in life. Whether or not my clients decide to stay affiliated with a particular religious group or belief system, my hope for all of my clients is that they can come to a place where they are able to love and accept all parts of who they are and find communities that can do the same.

What is your story?

Give me a call or send me an email! I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have and get to know you so we can see if we’d make a good fit. 

630-384-9065 | steph@steph-lee.com

Stephanie Lee, LCSW | 3150 18th St. Suite 501 | San Francisco, CA 94110 | Google Map

What is your story?

I would love to hear your story and join you in your journey of healing from religious shame. Contact me today so I can answer any questions you might have and to see if we would be a good fit!

15 + 5 =

217-493-8653 | steph@steph-lee.com

Healing Religious Shame | 3150 18th St. Suite 501 | San Francisco, CA 94110 | Google Map