When I started to lose Jesus, or, at least, losing was how it felt at the time, I was 33 and more adept at shaming my falling away than any evangelical Christian not confined to my internal monologue. I walked hundreds of miles, alone with thoughts that once were prayers and only questions where neat rows of answers had always been. I was terrified – of what you would say, of what you might think of me, of eternal damnation, of the disappointed weight of leadership gone sour, of the unbearable burden of leading others astray.

I was terrified of a world without God the way I’d always defined him.

But there were voices – warm, wise, laughter filled, holy, deeply spiritual voices that found their way into the cacophony of my private panic. They handed me tools and ideas, like rungs on a ladder that offered me something I was lacking – hope. They handed me hope. They handed me hope, and hope changed everything.

It started with a podcast.

So when the podcasts and books led to conversations, and conversations led to SoJo, our unicorn safe space of a church here in San Diego, I followed. And when a guy I didn’t know well beyond his voice and guitar on Sunday mornings started a podcast about deconstruction, I listened. And when he put out a call for folks to share stories, I messaged him. Immediately. Within minutes.

Maybe it was the hundreds of evenings of my childhood spent gathered around a piano singing songs I knew he could hum along to, or maybe it was the fire in my gut that had been smoldering too long in tedious years of transition, or maybe it was just that I never really say no to a chance to talk for hours. Whatever motivated the leap, my heart said jump now, jump, you belong here.

He said yes to my story. So we recorded a podcast.

I left that night of recording sure of a few things: that I had a new friend, the good kind, the kindred heart kind. That I wasn’t afraid of the truth he was going to air – that I was content with the choices that have outlined my story. And that maybe a little bit of magic had happened, and to follow it, I would show up for Heathen again and again in any way I possibly could.

So when, over tacos, Matthew asked me to consider being his cohost, I said yes. Immediately. Within minutes. Jump now – you belong here.

Hear me: if you are safe, and loved, and happy, and whole, in your definition of God and your faith and your practice, I am not against you. I celebrate your sureness. And I also celebrate that there are a thousand places for you to connect with others who believe what you do. Heathen might not be a thing you need, and that’s okay. You totally don’t have to hang out here – I have no expectations to put on you.

But I’m here because I remember how the fear felt – the fear that said there will be nothing but loss and death and loneliness on the other side of my questions. I’m here because there were other voices that whispered me into the joy, and community, and wide open love I found there instead. I’m here because if there’s any chance I can be one of those voices for someone else, there’s literally nothing that I’d rather do.

You won’t always like what I have to say. Please don’t always agree with me. Please push back when you want to, and tune out when it’s too much, but also, please laugh along, please join me in laughing at myself as we go places I’ve never gone before and it’s so awkward or ignorant that it’s painful to listen to. Please cry when I cry in every. Single. Episode. Please come with us as we dive in to whatever Season 2 will turn this journey into, as we cross our mutual swords of scars and cynicism with relentless optimism and those damn hardwired heart swells. We have no idea where we’re going. But you can totally sit with us.

Matthew Blake, I’m so damn grateful for you I can’t possibly begin to go there, so instead:

Here we go. Season 2. Hi, Heathens. <3