What is Saving Your Life?

by | Dec 20, 2012 | Uncategorized


“Sometimes [salvation] comes as an extended human hand and sometimes as a bolt from the blue, but either way it opens a door in what looked for all the world like a wall. This is the way of life, and God alone knows how it works.” Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church

I stood in the middle of my narrow walk-in closet, like a child in the forest under rows of sweaters bowing their branches to inspect the crown of my head. My skirt crumpled to the floor around my ankles, I grabbed an empty hanger and I heard these words, “Blogging is saving your life right now.” And the folding chair of my frame collapsed on the floor with my skirt. While my family made sandwiches for lunch after church, I sobbed under the fluorescent cadence of my salvation.

Six months earlier, I lamented over leaving a writing job I loved. And started blogging.

That day in my closet, I realized my reasons for walking away from writing relationships with leaders and their stories wasn’t just about stepping out in faith to fulfill calling. God was providing a way of rescue.

My life built around the pew snagged on deep disappointment, unraveling my Pollyanna point of view. And the new friendships I made on-line with you here, in this space of my blog, they saved this season of my life.


Beginning this series six weeks ago, I was pregnant with expectancy. I asked the question, “How do we walk out our faith in the midst of pain, suffering, disappointment and loneliness,” and just like that unexpected experience in the middle of my closet, I was blindsided by the answer.

He revealed salvation anew, in the protection of my daughter in an early morning collision with a semi; that true Thanksgiving celebrates the gift of breath around the table of plenty.

Grief in leaving the only church I’d known in my seaside town found redemption among hundreds setting sail for new land, leaving wishful thinking strewn on shore.

And I’m echoing Peter, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16)

I stood among strangers on a Sunday, raising my hands in Alleluia. With tears streaming down my face I realized that just like my relationship with God, I need church more than it needs me. Because death is cheap and life is costly. And in the communion of the saints, I stand eyewitness to His majesty.   

In the last chapter of Leaving Church, Taylor responds to this question posed at a speaking engagement, “What is saving your life now.” For her, the answer was teaching school, living in relationship with creation, observing the Sabbath, encountering God in other people, committing herself to the task of becoming fully human.

My answer?  Jesus’ loving me when I don’t deserve it. Redemption, it’s what is saving my life. That revelation found me crumpled in a heap in the bottom of my closet.

What about you, what is saving your life?

Thank you for joining this six-week journey of walking out our faith in the midst of hardship and difficulty. I have seen the face of God in your comments and emails; they give me strength for the journey. 

Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here: https://shellymillerwriter.com/free-resources/


  1. Lori

    Shelly….sometimes I really think blogging is saving my life in some very important ways too…..I know exactly what you mean. Living with someone with a debilitating illness does strange things to the psyche…an outlet is needed and God provided it at (as always) just the right time. We are blessed by what you write……Lori

    • lindalochridge

      What’s saving me life is similar to what’s saving yours! I am a psychotherapist and I love my job. It was my dream to help others. But my passion is writing. Blogging has been saving my life, as I blog my memoir, one post at a time. I am more dreams ahead. The relationships I am making online are fulfilling a need to know similar like-minded folks…hard to find in the small city in which I live. Thanks for being here, Lori!

      • Redemption's Beauty

        I echo your words Linda, about knowing like-minded people that aren’t available in the small town where you live. When I had the privilege to finally meet some blogging friends in real life a few months ago, I felt right at home and more like myself than I had in years.

        • lindalochridge

          Yes…I think it’s a price we pay for “walking to the beat of a different drummer”…;o)

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Whether on-line or real life, community is so very important for perspective isn’t it Lori? I’m so glad to know you through blogging.

  2. Heather Kopp at SoberBoots.com

    So beautiful. Right now my husband is saving me. His friendship and grace for me. And…reading meaningful posts like this one!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      We are so very blessed with husbands who love us well Heather. So thankful for you and grateful that blogging brought us together as friends. Sending love to you and would love to connect again via email sometime soon.

  3. lindalochridge

    Lori, I answered to your comment, and I meant to address my comment to Shelley! Sorry about that! Full of “first thing in the morning before my first cuppa” errors, too. In my excitement about making connections, I am tripping over my own tongue (and fingers). Have a very blessed day everyone!

  4. kelliwoodford

    Without sounding like I’m contradicting your heart here, Shelly, and in the spirit of answering your question with all honesty, this has been a season for me of being saved *from* blogging. I do know, too, what some others have shared about how blogging can provide a beautiful comraderie when it is unavailable in “real” life, but I am coming from a season of holding onto it too tightly. Of asking it to be more than the means of my salvation — to actually be my Savior. (Does this make sense??)
    I am feeling led to discover Life again outside of the keyboard. For indeed, He is much grander than we allow. And maybe life is just a series of these kinds of out-of-the-box discoveries . . . ?
    (Hope my rambling makes sense here, and isn’t taken as an indictment on those who are being saved through blogging. Maybe I should wake up more before I start typing. :))

    • lindalochridge

      Kelli, I think I understand what you are saying…when I discovered how fun it is to write a blog, it led to making connections with other bloggers, then discovering Twitter, then joining groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, etc. Soon my inbox was inundated with emails from those connections, and I strove (drove myself) to read everything, answer everyone. I soon realized that the amount of time I was spending on this activity was leaving little room for writing, reading the Word, prayer, or preparing for my clients as much as I should. I had to unhook, and decide which blogs I would follow, which groups I would respond to, and which I would “unsubscribe” to. Others I read when I have time but I find myself hitting the “delete” button without spending a moment longer at the keyboard. I think there’s a balance, and if you are like me, you struggle sometimes to find it.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh yes, I completely understand what you are saying Kelli about being saved from it. And we all go through different seasons of discovery in being seekers of the mystery. Blogging can become an idol just like anything else we put before our relationship with Him. I’m thankful for the safe haven of the blogosphere during a time of wounding and I’m thankful that it doesn’t define who I am.

      • kelliwoodford

        oh, shelly and linda, thank you both.
        i especially liked what you said, shelly, about it not defining who i am.
        exactly. what. i’m. thinking. – but you said it so much more lucidly. 🙂

  5. Elizabeth Stewart

    I think blogging has, at times, become a safe place when ministry life didn’t feel safe. It was a way to connect with someone without so much risk of being hurt, or the need to be continually “the strong one”. While I love blogging and the relationships found there, in this season, I’m finding refuge in going into my little home office, putting on worship music, opening the Word and my journal, and just sitting in His peace and presence and resting in Him.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Elizabeth, I echo your thought about blogging being a safe place when you are a ministry wife. That has been one of the greatest gifts for me too. Looking forward to some of that time of worship and quietly listening as we head into a new year. Merry Christmas to you friend.

  6. apronheadlilly

    Blogging is also a blessing for me. It keeps my creative juices flowing and gives me a chance to reach out beyond my close life, which is in so many ways growing smaller.

    I used to have a ministry, and my music went around the world. As I have gotten older and opportunities have disappeared year after year and my children are now grown, I understand how hard that has been for other relatives that I have known. In this aging and waiting period, surrender is key–it always is–but also really hard.

    I have sorrowed to watch my mom, who had such a life of influence, diminish year after year as her mind is being swallowed up by Alzheimer’s. But for me, who still has a mind 🙂 I am not ready to give up opportunities that God may provide to share my passion and faith. Blogging is that opportunity right now.

    Atheists are also out there using technology, and becoming more evangelistic than I have ever witnessed before. We of faith must get in and keep in the game to go where the people are. Bless you!

    • Sylvia R

      Apronhead, you are reminding me that no, I am not just continuing to blog to maintain new relationships. Sometimes I forget that this has become my present *calling*! Thanks.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I agree Lilly, that blogging inspires and broadens perspective on what He is doing outside my walls among His people. And surrender is always hard for sure. Continue to share your voice with the world, we need your art, your perspective, your wisdom. Merry Christmas to you.

      • apronheadlilly

        ANd same to you. I hope your daughter knows she is a “present” to you this Christmas!

  7. Sylvia R

    Wow! You wrote my heart–and my rescue! And I find myself identifying with everyone commenting here so far in some point. What saved me after we were compelled to leave our church of many years, was Him working through…
    1) Blogging, which became my community, & gave me writing outlet (leaving had meant relinquishing a sure writing prospect for me, too) and interaction with like-minded people (rare where I am, too).
    2) Husband and me drawing closer together than ever before (circling our two wagons), as we had time to relate unhindered by “ministry” demands.
    3) The break itself saved me from burnout. I was right on the brink and craving “sabbatical.”
    4) And there was the quiet, in which I was able to draw closer to God. Wonderful.
    I identify with the “blogging rescue” as a for-a-season thing, too. I continue blogging more for the sake of maintaining new friendships than escaping anything now, and also struggle sometimes with *it* starting to get demanding and time-robbing.
    5) Another thing that played a big part in my deliverance was internet-available information that helped me understand the psychological workings involved in people’s disappointing, even bizarre behaviors, and that helped me know we weren’t crazy, and enabled me more fully to forgive.
    Thanks for this great post. God only improved and enriched our lives in so many ways through this whole mess. I actually thank Him often and profusely that it all happened! May He bless you (all) likewise!

    • lindalochridge

      This has been such a great discussion…a wonderful example of what brings me to the blogging community in the first place!

      • Redemption's Beauty

        I agree Linda, I’m just blown away at the goodness of God here.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Slyvia, thanks for sharing the way God broke in to this season for you and redeemed it. I can relate to several of your points because I opened many of the same gifts from Him. And I realized that the blog supports a ministry God laid at my door, not the other way around. Peace to you this Christmas, praying He gives you a merry heart on the doorstep to a new year.

  8. Jillie

    Hi Shelly
    I’ve just arrived home from a funeral for my best girlfriend’s brother. He grew up Catholic, but I think he lost faith years ago after a horrendous car crash left him wheelchair bound. He lived his life well though, always determined. Always an encouragement to others. Obviously loved very much by all who came to the service. But a real faith in Jesus was not evident, which made me very sad. Although I am not currently ‘in’ church life, Jesus is sweeter than ever to me, especially in these times. HE is always faithful, even when I am not. HE never gives up on me, even when I give up on myself. I am sad today for those who don’t know Him as The Faithful One. Don’t know Him as Friend. HE is what truly ‘saves my life’ every single day.
    I know I came down heavy on some of Barbara Brown Taylor at the start of this book club, but I am now convinced I need to read her “An altar in the World”. I have learned from her, and I have enjoyed the discussions very much.
    Something else that has been ‘saving my life’ these past 9 months or so, is reading 5 favourite blogs and responding in comments. I have found community amongst you and your peers. I feel quite free to ‘share’ from my heart, and my often confused mind—more coffee please—and you wonderful bloggers have helped me a great deal. When I first heard of your names, and started reading, I was as close to suicide as I’ve ever been. I felt so alone here. No MEANINGFUL fellowship here in my tiny dot on the map…(or in my church). I owe you. I humbly thank you. And I thank God for leading me to all of you. My heart is lifted and my mind is enriched by your beautiful and honest words. I was looking for something real and alive, and I’ve found it! Thank you for being here.

    • kelliwoodford

      Jillie, your words bring tears. thank you for pouring this out of your heart and onto my screen. praying for you. thankful for your presence.

      • lynndmorrissey

        Jillie, we’ve just communicated personally about your deep, passionate, and poignant post, but I wanted to say publicly what a blessing you are. How I praise God for staying your hand and saving your life. May He continue to preserve you and may you continue to shine your light. I love seeing how the bloggers are ministering to you, and you to them. (And I am waiting for *your* blog)!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’m glad you were touched by the book and discussion Jillie. I, too, did not agree with much of her theology but took away nuggets from her journey that informed or reflected mine. And really, your words about our blogs saving you from a dark night of the soul, I’m a bit undone by them. Humbled. My heart fell to my knees and I thanked God for that with you. You sharing that with me here, it makes what I do worth every minute. Thank you. I love you Jillie and pray you have a peace-filled and Merry Christmas. Let’s walk into this new year together, full of hope and promise.

      • lynndmorrissey

        Oh Shelly, how my eyes well w/ tears here, for your untold love and compassion to this dear, dear lady…..and for the utter confirmation of what you are doing by steadfastly writing this blog. When I read Jillie’s post (which I’ve done several times now), I praised the Lord for how He uses saints to minister to saints, and I thought of all the hard work you do here (it takes tons of your time, thoughts, prayers, preparation, and follow-up). I don’t know if you have ever doubted your call, but I thought “If she ever did, surely this one post will show her that everything she does here has such great siginificance. It matters tremendously. God, You are using her just the way You intend, and I am so grateful for her faithfulness.” Oh…..now I’m crying again. I thank God for you Shelly, for Jillie, your readers, and your bevy of beautiful blogging friends. God is doing a mighty work globally through you all! (Jillie is from Canada! 🙂 I love you all! ~Lynn

  9. lynndmorrissey

    Shelly, thank you for a thoughtful, inspiring post! What is saving my life? Jesus. That’s the obvious answer. But what we can so easily forget is that the grace with which we were saved for eternity is also the grace with which God saves us daily. God’s grace abounds, and in a number of ways that you mention, like: blogging, calling, community (you mentioned the Internet blogging community and what an amazing godsend this is!), gratitude for gifts galore (especially, for you, the gift given back of Murielle’s life!), your needful relationship with God, and worship with believers. Shelly, I think you said something very profound here: “With tears streaming down my face I realized that just like my relationship with God, I need church more than it needs me. … And in the communion of saints, I stand eyewitness to His majesty.” Reading a book about leaving church has made me realize all the more why I don’t want to. There are times to do just that (with no room to elaborate on your blog), and yet, I don’t believe that these times are meant to be permanent. In the book of Hebrews, we are told not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, and there are many passages in the Bible that relate to this—about the need to be a part of a local body of Christ-believers (again, no room to elaborate). Corporate Christian worship, fellowship, and serving Christ by serving, edifying, and exhorting each other, too, is a means of saving our lives, because as you state, Shelly, you witness His majesty in the communion of the saints. I am so glad for your emphasis on needing church (I may have missed this, but I did not get this concept from Taylor’s book, but the opposite). And turning a corner, I loved what you and your readers have said about the seasonal saving of lives. Blogging is a means of grace to you now (and how I thank God that He is using it to fulfill you, personally, and as a way to use your gifts to serve, because your writing is saving *my* life, too, and countless others’!) Yet, I have just recently read that two extremely gifted bloggers are leaving blogdom in our to save *their* lives. It makes sense. I think one way to save our lives is to obey God in each season and circumstance, which involves having that needful relationship with Him which you mention so that you can listen discerningly and obey, accordingly. On a personal note, God has used singing and journaling to save my life in recent years. I can’t tell you what joy they bring, and on the heels of some deep personal losses for me ministerially, God is making up for locust years through these two means of grace which I can share with the Church. It’s important to pass the gifts along. That is just what you do every day at your beautiful blog, Shelly. You are obviously indebted for your redemption, but you don’t let it stop there. God has redeemed you for a purpose, and you are living it out, witnessing publically to the saving majesty of our glorious God! THANK YOU MORE THAN YOU KNOW!!!!! Love, Lynn

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I agree with you Lynn when you said reading the book about leaving church affirmed that you didn’t want to. It made me realize how much I do need it. We are messy, fallen people, I’m not sure why we expect the church to be any different. I don’t go because I’m looking for perfection, I go because I need to remember that my life is frail and messy like the others around me but Christ is my hope. Always my hope. People and circumstances disappoint but He never does. I used to go to church for the saints, now I go because I desperately need him to break into my life. When you are desperate for a Saviour, you don’t really care about who is sitting around you or if the church looks like home. You are just happy to be in His presence. Your words fill me up today Lynn and give me hope. Thank you for your love and friendship.

      • lynndmorrissey

        Shelly, your reply is kind and gracious, and I’m so appreciative. I wanted my words to be understood, and you have. Jesus loved the Church and died for her, and He came to live with messy, sin-filled people. He didn’t abandon us, and He bids we live our spiritual lives at close range with other sinners, just like us (even though it’s sometimes difficult). I think if we can do that, we are better “equipped” to serve a sinful world. (And that’s not easy either). So we come *together*, as broken sinners to His table, and it’s here that He makes us whole–together. I am part of a body, and I need the church. And like you, I truly need the Lord. Oh how I need Him–Him, the body’s head! Love, Lynn

  10. Danelle

    Just reading the comments here are so good for my heart. Love you much Shelly. Looking forward to meeting in real life someday. I just know we will. 🙂

  11. Gayle

    Grace, simply grace especially these last two days. I’m just home from the doctor with bronchitis, Last night after I was in my night clothes and feeling awful, mom’s assisted living called to come help them. Mom was screaming and out of control (she has dementia) Today I taught a 6 hours webinar on death from a nursing point of view (always a difficult subject, especially this time of year!) and coughed all the way through it. Some days it is simply g r a c e.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Gayle, I hope you feel better soon and feel His presence with you in the midst of sickness. Thankful for grace, yes always this.

  12. ro elliott

    Thank you for hosting this book club…saving me…the cross everyday…blogging was part of a healing process…and He called me away…oh how He saw where He was leading me…His wisdom is always protective…not allowing more on us than we can handle. I am desperate for Him as I walk with my niece whose husband left her…3 children…5 ,3, 7 weeks old…it is the most bizarre turn of events…I have walked with them through their marriage as they worked through some tuff places…and i could have never seen this…him leaving for another woman with 2 children….trading one family for another. Sad to say…I have walked this dark road with other woman…but this one…so dark…but God is showing Himself so faithful. This is the first time I have been on a blog page in weeks. I just was this post and wanted to say thanks…and His Spirit….Love…and wisdom is saving me from drowning with her right now. blessings dear shelly

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’ve thought about this, your comment, all morning. I’m just struck by the love of God being so tangible. How we often vascillate in our confidence about hearing Him, yet hindsight is so clear when we step out in faith. So thankful you did just that, stepped out in obedience not knowing why. Praying for you today Ro. I feel privileged that you dropped by to share this with me. Love you lots and hope you have a wonderful Christmas surrounded by your family.

  13. Mary Gemmill

    Shelly- I love this quest you have been on. Briefly- what keeps me going through relentless ” abuse” from aged Mum- is being loved a appreciated in my workplace- it’s true that your gift makes room for you- God has been wriggling me into the best possible place in the high school I work at- and this year students who had no hope of success achieved incredible success- and that great joy helps compensate for the other.
    God Bless you Shelly- Merry Christmas- and thanks for an inspirational blog that I enjoy very much and find helpful as well. Mary, New Zealand.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Mary, so glad you are walking this road with us here. What a privilege to see God’s hand doing the miraculous among those kids. Thank you for sharing such hope. Merry Christmas to you too and I look forward to all God has for us in the coming year.

  14. Anne

    Just asking the question, ” What is saving me now;” brings a warm comfort to my heart and soul.
    Looking at the end of difficult year of loss has brought me to my knees like never before. What has saved me has been so many little things of grace that came from out of the blue. Simple things like a surprise visit or phone call that I know God inspired by the beginning words of the voice that was before me or on the phone. The words that come to describe these saving actions is God is good all the time as He knows what I need and just the moment I need it. Coffee with a friend that is going through the loss of leaving church. An email from someone across the country that had a nudge to encourage me. Always my sweet husband who is enduring the same loss with me. My family as I have opened up and shared like never before. All acts of God’s love in the times when my mind took me to places I never dreamed I could go. Being told by a good friend I needed to forgive those that hurt my heart when they looked the other way after years and years of thinking we were friends. Sitting in my chair and letting God do whatever He needed to do in my heart to keep me from falling into the depths of depression. Admitting my part in all the mess. Remembering the words of my Mother in law as she lay dying in Trauma ICU, ” I want to be with Jesus so please pray with me He will come and take me”. Again and again God did what He does and I can look back and say, thanks be to God for His provision when I thought it seemed impossible. He is good all the time. Thank you Shelly for this time and the reflections of your heart. It too was a comfort as I walked through leaving church.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Anne, I have a hard time pressing the tears back when I see your faithful, loving husband serving communion. His steadfast faithfulness to God makes my heart full and gives me hope. I’m so glad we’ve turned the corner to joy and our heads will not look back. He is good, all the time.

  15. cshocklie

    I have not been able to follow all of the conversations but managed to catch today’s. As I look through the comments and think back about everything that has happened to us since 2007, the scripture about God’s ways are not our ways comes to mind. In the process of looking backwards, I start to see a pattern emerge that was not apparent in the midst of the trial. I know that if something is working for me, I won’t change it. And yet as I have been forced to deal with leaving my church, two near death experiences for our family in one month, my views on “church” have had to change or rather were forced to change. What is this institution called “church” really supposed to be and what role does it play in society? The American church certainly reflects our society. Wherever 3 Christians are gathered, there are 5 opinions; all of them heated. Our government is clearly not working. Is that because of the state of our church? For me having my life “box” turned over that gives me a chance to look at each thing I put back in the box. I may never have seen some of these things otherwise because I forgot what I had in that “box.” There seems to be a new day dawning for the church that I suspect, will turn over a lot of church “boxes” and force us to see God as He really is. My circumstances have forced me to re-evaluate and press in. The good thing is that God doesn’t change so there is only one variable in the equation: me.

  16. Lark Fiore

    What has saved me in the last year is that I have finally stopped and listened. I am 61 years old, have 28 years of sobriety and a number of marriages under my belt. Life has been an adventure and my walk with God has been mostly based on what I “thought” the church should do for me or on what I thought I had to offer when, in truth, I was without an offering. I retired a little over a year ago in ill health and not having saved financially for retirement. I have a retirement check but I need to work also. My husband has severe depression and manipulates his medications so that no periods of time are the same and there is no marriage in terms of mutual support. I had total knee replacement and then something went crazy with my intestines and I have not been able to make extra money since May of this year. All “my plans” fell apart and there have been times when I did not have even $1.00 to my name. I attend a church that is small and designed to attract people much like myself. I have church hopped all my life. Starting as a knee-baby with Southern Baptist….leaving the church because of the people and years later returning because of the Holy Spirit. This year should have been a spirit breaker. I started to leave this little church in search of what I don’t know. The Holy Spirit reeled me in and showed me that I am the common denominator in all of my chaos. I started to leave my husband. The Holy Spirit, for the thousandth, time brought me to a place of His understanding and I surrendered. I started to look for work when the doctors were adamantly against me working and the Holy Spirit literally held my feet to the floor of my home. This year I stopped fighting life. I stopped staring into the face of the abyss and I surrendered. I can’t fight it. The corporate church is in a mess. I see it everywhere I look when I look at our local churches. BUT the body of Christ is deeply healthy and growing stronger each day. The Holy Spirit is alive. Christ is King. We are a fallen people. All of us. I gave myself to the leadings of the Holy Spirit as best I can discern and I don’t volunteer for anything He doesn’t prompt me to attempt and I do things and accept people in a way I never dreamed. I clean the bathrooms and vacuum the church. The Holy Spirit put that into my heart. I love it. What saved me this past year? It is kind of like the school teaches us to do if we are on fire…stop, drop and roll. I stopped my way, dropped my rights to myself and began rolling along, to the best of my ability, with the unctions of the Holy Spirit. I was always the one who thought I had to be so much to so many. I nearly died. Sorry for the long post…thanks for providing this place to prompt us to look at ourselves, Shelly.

  17. Megan Willome (@meganwillome)

    What is saving my life? Relationships with bloggers like you. And a church that I need more than it needs me.

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