Belief, Boundaries and Belonging: My Exodus (EXIT) from Evangelical Christianity

Belief, Boundaries and Belonging: My Exodus from Evangelical Christianity

madison hedlund life coach  leaving christianity behind and finding myself

First I want to say, I am far less interested in WHAT you believe, but if those beliefs serve you and are rooted in dignity for yourself and for others.

My personal belief is that if your religion, faith, spirituality or practices are not founded on dignity of the human spirit, it’s missing the mark.

So as you come to this space, I just want to thank you for showing up as you are, with your curiosities and questions. This will not be a space of finger pointing, saving others or debate. I am not attached to your affirmation, but will ask that you don’t try to correct, save or fix me. I am not broken or in need of understanding.

The one thing I’ve learned through my deconstruction has served me most, is that i am first and foremost the expert on me.

I can trust myself. And I don’t need to agree with anyone cognitively in order to love them and belong with them.

Thank you so much for being here.

Watch the first 13 minutes of this LIVE convo:


“Deconstruction = a method of critical analysis of philosophical and literary language which emphasizes the internal workings of language and conceptual systems, the relational quality of meaning, and the assumptions implicit in forms of expression.”

10 years ago, I was an over-seas mission-trip going, purity ring wearing, bible to college classes kind of Christian. I led bible studies weekly in my home. I loved the bible, Jesus, my church and envisioned myself being a woman pastor of sorts, in a church that allowed women pastors of course.

I was not raised a Christian. I chose Christianity for myself as a teenager and dove deep into the grace and love of Jesus. I was born-again, spirit filled, and on fire.

I got married as a Christian, which meant when it started to fall apart, I had deconstruct my faith alongside my husband, which was really hard. It uprooted everything our marriage was founded upon. I think in my community, I would have been one of the least likely people to “fall away” so it came as a surprise for many of my friends and family when I did.

How did it begin?—

It started slow and I was in denial of it… The best way I know how to describe it is that something felt “off” at church.

A sense of not belonging? A sense of violation? A sense of not being allowed to live in my gifts or personality. I started noticing how often people were called out. I saw one of my friends leave the church for being gay after church discipline was practiced on him. Another friend asked to step down from leadership because she was having sex. But at the time, none of these things consciously bothered me. They were just the truth. Aligned with the bible. Facts.

I thought the “off” feeling was just my legalistic church, so I switched churches and felt great for a while! But it wasn’t long until the mega-church we were attending in Springfield, Missouri boldly opposed transgender rights, and even protested equality laws. That was the last day we went there.

Shortly after we found an amazing house church with people who believed in therapy, (WIN!) who were open to discussions of doubt and who drank, and didn’t shame people. It was people doing life together! FINALLY. I found my people.

But my internal process had only begun.

During this season I began to go to trauma therapy with a christian counselor/energy healer and within 6 months, I felt completely different. Freer. More me. And all of sudden, I didn’t connect with my faith, or Jesus… at all.

THE HEALTHIER I BECAME, THE LESS THE DOGMA WORKED FOR ME. I confessed my doubts. Talked to mentors. I fasted and prayed. But I struggled to connect to the divine like I “should” and I was fearful.

I started my life coach training around this time and began to chat with people from all over the world with so many different backgrounds. It became clear this guiding light Christians claimed was “holy spirit” was within everyone I talked to. These were some of the most christ-like people I’d ever met.

It cracked me open. I started having lunch with people who were atheists, who were gay, who were Wiccan, who were non-religious and asking them questions. Across the board, all of these people had the same guiding light, and the same needs: to belong and be seen and accepted for the person they really were.

It seemed through that period, the more I started loving on people without a motive to save them, just to relate and know them, the more questions I had about the bible.

I KNEW the bible. Really well. And this newfound space to be curious prompted me to ask questions that were only met with circular reasoning within my circle of friends. Questions about evolution, homosexuality, sex before marriage, our obvious biology and sexual drives, biblical contradictions, contradictions between biblical scholars. And the one thing that tripped me up the most: That a cognitive belief can really “save you.”

Who has access to cognitive belief, anyway? Which IQ levels permit belief in God? The stats on this were not promising.

It seemed to me that only people with the right sexual orientation, culture, IQ, fortunate enough to know and be raised around THE RIGHT christian beliefs could get in?


I didn’t feel like I needed clear answers, but the questions alone were enough to make me a problem in Christian circles.


And change I was. So If I wanted to honor the truth of my experience, I had to honor the questions and make room for the answers to be honest, not just what I wanted them to be.

I describe letting go of these beliefs as a death because truly, my entire identity and all my relationships had to change when I let it go. My marriage, all my friendships, even my work. All of it.

Even if I was invited to a bible study… should I go? Would my truth (which was more questions than truth) be welcome? Would people see me as a disruption? Would I even want to go?

So much grief. I felt really lonely. Really misunderstood.

Holding all the mess and the questions was so challenging. I felt lost. Insecure. Like a fraud. Like who I was as a person could not be trusted if I didn’t have the answers. I had questions and questions about my questions. I was absolutely consumed with the topic too. I was researching basically every day looking for answers and hearing different perspectives.


In the midst of it, I hired a coach to hold space for me and support me through this season. I knew I needed unbiased support. It was the healthiest thing I could have ever done because unlike my friends, counselor and mentor, she did not need me to be anything but honest.

If I could boil it down, questions and honest answers are what began my deconstruction, and are the same things that built me up again.

After there was nothing left but void, I had to actually do some healing work. Because once I officially left, I started to see the power dynamics and systems of oppression within the American church I hadn’t seen while I was knee deep within it.

I hadn’t seen how being so deep in the system made me hate pieces of myself. Hate my body, my sexuality, my personality. I hadn’t seen how I had internalized shame, how the belief that my "best” was nothing but “filthy rags” (period stained pads, biblically) to God. I hadn’t seen how women were not only unclean in the tradition, but feared and kept small. I hadn’t seen the codependent cycles I was in, the gaslighting masked as “loving guidance” and manipulation keeping me from trusting myself. The ways I’d been called out for sin that was nothing but a response to unhealed trauma.

I realized that my humanity was not ever going to be truly welcome in the system.

I realized I’d been trained not to think or feel for myself.

I realized that I’d been a part of the problem.

That’s when I got angry.

I had to really sit with my anger, and trauma both from being in the church, and my experience leaving. I’ve been actively healing in this area for about 2 years… letting go of pain and literally reprogramming my brain and nervous system to new stories and embodying relational safety.

I had to actively heal. Actively reprogram my brain and claim my worth. And I did. I leaned the fuck IN.

Did I lose relationships? Some, yes. But I gained so much more. Self trust. Wholeness. Aliveness. Belief in my ability to be with hard things. The ability to set boundaries and see toxic spiritual behavior. The power and capacity to know myself deeply, and trust what I find. I gained friends and mentors and a new, awakened understanding of the world.

In reflection, this deconstruction catapulted me into the deep work I am able to do with the women in my programs now. I can be with hard things, liminal space, the unknown, and still have peace.

one of you made this during the live convo! If it was you, please let me know- I lost our chat + want to give you credit <3

one of you made this during the live convo! If it was you, please let me know- I lost our chat + want to give you credit <3

Now what I believe:

I’m no longer angry or living from trauma. I’ve journaled through this and given myself to living in the grey, the mystery, the both/and.

I’ve never felt more peace with myself or life.

Now I’d describe my spiritual beliefs as more of a mystic humanist perspective. I am not so attached to it fitting into a perfect box to present others. (It’s usually other people who are obsessed with ‘what I am’, not me).

Today, the things I know to be true are:

  • That our mind is powerful and the stories we believe shape the reality we see

  • That we are all born good, wanting to be love, give love and receive love

  • That we are here to be human, and that being human in and of itself is enough

  • That there is so much more mystery than I can imagine, and I find peace in it.

  • That we all want to be seen, known and loved. We deserve dignity.


These are community questions that were sent in from Instagram + my quick, rapid-fire answers to them. Enjoy!

Did/do you struggle with questioning if you need to rethink your deconstruction?-- nope! I have never felt more free and connected to myself, the divine or others than I do now.

What did the deconstruction process look like? What does deconstruction really mean? It looked like taking apart my reality, belief system and life, and giving a really honest look at what it all meant.

Did you feel unsteady or look for a new for a new foundation in the process of deconstruction? My safe-haven became curiosity and questions. I learned through this that I don’t need a foundation of dogma to have a foundation of truth, hope, love and dignity. I can belong without needing others to understand me. So I guess the answer is that healing and the process of healing became my foundation.

What did the “messy middle” of it feel like, and how did you let it be okay? Terrible, lonely and strangely alive. I just leaned in. I got safe, emotional support from coaches and therapists who did not need me to be different.

Do you still believe in the same God or god at all? -- I believe in God but I don’t usually call it god.

What do you do spiritually now? -- I live! Life is spiritual. Food, nature, conversations, meditation, my personal growth, sex… it’s all a part of my spirituality.

Do you think you can be spiritual without being religious? Yes! Being spiritual is being human.

What are your thoughts on the person of Jesus? Do you relate to him spiritually? Where does Jesus fit into your current understanding? God? Man? Archetypal myth? I am not attached to the Jesus story being literal, but I am attached to living in the grace, the spirit and learning about love however it presents itself. I spent years studying the life (and death) of Jesus and the Jesus path highly informs the way I currently live.

Is there such a thing as evil? --An even more thought-provoking idea, ask yourself: what does evil feel like to you? have you felt it? What conditioning did you have around evil that gave you this framework?

How do you come to a place of ease and acceptance about a spirituality that embraces more unknowns than knowns after being raised to believe for so long that there was only one way? How do you find security in a spirituality that has no dogma? What role does security play in your spirituality, if any?--I found the knowns so restricting, and often were never whole truths anyway. I found the malleability of the brain, and how you can believe anything and do anything if you’re programmed that way. My liberation came when I realized “if nothing is true, then I can choose what I want to believe.” I also had coaches who held space for this within me.

What have been the most helpful steps/resources that have helped you heal from spiritual trauma?-- Coaching and mentoring first and foremost!! You can (and I encourage you to) read all the books and listen to all the podcasts, but there is nothing like one on one mentorship through the journey.

Here are some of my favorite resources I’ve compiled for you:

I created a program, Awaken Her Soul, to help bring people through their own identity crisis, loss of faith, personal transformation and awakening. If you are walking through a season of waking up, be it in faith, relationships, career or self-worth, I want to invite you to lean in. This is where the life is.

Do you worship the devil? Obviously.

Do you still have church? If so what does that look like for you? Church is wherever I can have communion.

How do you move on in a way where you don’t feel guilty? Suffering from church guilt.-- Ask where the guilt is coming from. Why is the guilt there? Get really curious.

I’m bi and wondering how to set boundaries with christians who are not affirming of me?— First and foremost, get around safe people who allow you to be who you are. Find safe spaces and start getting used to being fully seen and loved as you are. Recalibrate your cells to full acceptance. Program your brain to a place of your divine power. Then, learn the basic steps of setting boundaries. They always begin with self-trust.

You can access my free boundaries training here.

Did your family fear you are going to hell? If so, how did you deal with their fear?-- THAT’S THEIR FEAR, NOT MINE. I had to let go of the codependent tendencies I learned in the church, that I was sovereign over my own emotions, and knew myself better than others knew me. Those are THEIR emotions to be with. I accepted their emotions. Point blank. And then worked through what those emotions meant for my relationship with them.

Would love to hear more about trauma and religious abuse. What did it look like to work through that? --- It was HARD. I didnt see it until I was out. Listen to this podcast episode and keep a tissue/journal handy.

The truth is: Everything you are looking for is and always was within. This journey is simply about remembering, awakening and listening.

You are so good.

Thank you so much for reading. If this resonates, please hop over to Instagram and send me a DM. I’d love to chat more and hear about your personal awakening.


Wanting to dive deep into your own awakening?

10 Liberating Lessons Every Woman Must Learn about Claiming Radical Self-Responsibility

10 Liberating Lessons Every Woman Must Learn about Claiming Radical Self-Responsibility

madison hedlund life coach and mentor

Does radical self-responsibility feel like a burden? (It has for me).

For the last year, my resounding mantra has been, “I am my own responsibility!” It’s basically our theme-song in Awaken Her Soul, and I’m seeing so many of you claim this daily on social as you hit the gym, go to therapy, set boundaries, and as you make your truth the forefront of your life.


The thought of radical self-responsibility has brought up a lot of questions, self-criticism and fears for many.

In a recent convo with a member of Awaken Her Soul, I was discussing how overwhelming/harsh it can feel to take responsibility for your life. We talked about how initially it can activate shame and the feeling of not-enough. Or with a slight twist, it can feel like victim-blaming. Or if you’ve been taking on too much responsibility for as long as you can remember, it can feel even more heavy, dreadful and not liberating at all to think of ONE MORE THING to take responsibility for.

Which is why I want to create some s p a c e around the idea, and offer some curiosity, perspective and joy to the conversation.

But first, gather round. It’s story time.

I was 25, starting my own business, trying to create the life of my dreams by pulling myself up by my bootstraps. (Responsible AF). I was working 4 jobs, searching for truth, working through my faith deconstruction; which also meant leaving the church-- the community that had served as my family for years. I was trying to save my marriage, fix my husband, fix our unhealthy patterns, all while in trauma therapy trying to fix myself. I also felt compelled to pass on all the knowledge I was gaining to my family, trying as the oldest child does, to fix everyone and make everything happy. Happy for me. Happy for others. Happiness for all!!

But it wasn’t happy.

Under all the “glamorous” growth and change, life felt heavy and I was tired.

And on top of it all, the thought of “not being a victim to my circumstances” and taking responsibility was really upsetting. Hadn’t I been a victim to abuse? YES. Wasn’t I still in a job with a boss who was manipulating me and lying about me? YES. Wasn’t I feeling alone in it all, trying to navigate the loss of my God, my faith and my community all at once? YES. Wasn’t it hard to have to learn self-trust, boundaries, and belonging in adulthood… all while managing a business and saving a marriage? YES.

IT WAS HARD. It was so hard. And, somehow in that season, it was realizing “I am my own responsibility” that helped set me free… and continues to do so. 

  • If I wanted a new life of wholeness and love instead of fear and brokenness… Then I was the one who had to seek out healing.

  • If I wanted to set new generational patterns and deviate from the vicious cycle of codependency... Then I was the one who had to learn and practice new patterns.

  • If I wanted to feel free in my truth.… Then I was the one who had to set boundaries, I was the one who had to choose it

It became clear: The “savior” I’d always been searching for was me.

So what are the 10 liberating “lessons” in all of this? I’m soooo glad you asked!!

10 Liberating Lessons all women must learn:

  1. Responsibility is simply the ability to respond in integrity to my truth. NOT taking on all the responsibility, burdens of the past, and to-do’s of the present. (It’s just your ability to act in accordance to who you really are).

  2. Responsibility means I am the only one who can choose my wholeness, self-compassion, chase my dreams, or claim my worth. It’s true! You don’t have to wait for others to see your worth before you embody it.

  3. Responsibility says: I can’t always control the circumstances, but it’s my sacred duty to manage my energies (my emotions, attitudes, behaviors and time).

  4. Choosing responsibility means gaining agency. The ability to CHOOSE!

    • I can choose to heal.

    • I can choose to seek help.

    • I can choose to respond… or not to.

    • I can choose boundaries.

    • I can choose a new thought.

    • I can choose new patterns.

    • I can choose a new life.

    • I can choose again. Amen and amen.

  5. Self-responsibility means I am sovereign over myself and the Queen of my life. AKA: you become the authority on your own life; gaining self-trust, healthy boundaries and power. You know yourself. You trust yourself. You ARE yourself, at all times.

  6. Responsibility does not mean I have to do everything alone. It’s simply about shifting from codependency to interdependence, where tenderness, receiving help and love are paired with healthy boundaries; which allows for deeper trust and connection! YES PLZ.

  7. Responsibility means knowing my needs, and knowing how to get them met in a healthy way.

  8. Responsibility means I must give up control of others, stop managing the emotions of others, or trying to “fix” them. (Just imagine how much LIFE will be freed up if we all trusted other people to be on their perfect path!? It’s not your job to make others happy. Their healing is not your job! You don’t have to save anyone!!) All my empath babes, go ahead and take that sigh of relief now.

  9. Responsibility means I can go at my own pace. I’ve got nothing to prove!! I do what’s best for me and no longer need anyone outside me to “get” me or my choices. Because I trust myself, and no longer need to meddle in the minds of others. (What they think is their business!)

  10. Responsibility is a reclamation of freedom, dignity and self-respect.

BONUS: This one’s for you to write: Responsibility means ___________________.

Responsibility means.png

Now love, it's time for you to take this into your own hands. Use THIS GRAPHIC and share on Instagram stories what responsibility means to you in light of LIBERATION.

Tag me and use our community hashtag #IAMMYOWNRESPONSIBILITY so I can see and share your post with the rest of the community.

In awe of you and how you show up for yourself,



We just wrapped up another round of Awaken Her Soul last week and truly, these women showed up and claimed self-responsibility in the midst.

“I am more trusting than I’ve ever been. More honest. I trust myself and know I am powerful.”

“I a freely expressing myself, my art. I wasn’t expressing myself before. Before I was regurgitating, and now I feel like I have taken responsibility, no longer taking offense, and am honoring others expression more deeply. My writing has shifted, my self talk is shifting. I am asking for my needs to be met.”

“I've got a voice and I'm no longer afraid to use it! I've been MIA over the past year in my business because, ah, I simply was not ready. AHS has helped me integrate it all.Following the nudge today. Tears of joy flowing.”

“I’m not sure when or how the magic happened, but somewhere in these last few months I opened my eyes to my life. Friends and family have repeatedly told me how great I look, but I haven’t lost any weight, I’m still wearing the same old clothes I’ve been wearing for years, and I’m still struggling with acne and back pain. But I feel different. I feel GOD in my body for the first time in years. I have a love for myself that feels unbreakable. I am confident that I am on the right path.”

Reflections on Winning the BYCA International Coach of the Year Award

Reflections on Winning the BYCA International Coach of the Year Award


It’s hard to believe that this time last year, I was preparing to travel for the first time to Melbourne, Australia with my husband Phil to accept the International Coach of the Year Award from Beautiful You Coaching Academy. Looking back at the whole experience, I still feel so joyful about my coaching journey and this milestone, and I could not be more grateful.

I’m so thankful to Julie Parker and the BYCA team for honoring me with the Award for 2017/2018 and for asking me to be the featured writer in Inspired Coach Magazine!

My husband Phil and I (all dressed up) in Melbourne, Australia where I received the BYCA International Coach of the Year Award.

My husband Phil and I (all dressed up) in Melbourne, Australia where I received the BYCA International Coach of the Year Award.

During my time in Melbourne with my fellow Beautiful You Certified Coaches, I not only had THE best coffee I’ve ever had, I was given the opportunity to pause, breathe, and celebrate the life I've chosen to claim as my own. My 3-year journey as a coach has stretched me in so many ways + flipped my world upside down.  [Read my blog post from my first year as a coach here].

Moments like this make me realize how grateful I truly am to have chosen to follow my heart and do this work.

In the 3 years since launching my business, I have left behind versions of myself too small to dance in, made heaps of mistakes (many of them grammar related LOL!), worked too hard, asked for help, built a team of incredible women that help me succeed, learned to laugh at myself, give grace to others, have met the best humans on earth and have had the privilege of coaching 200+ of them.  

I am so proud of the woman this work has made me. I've become (and am still becoming) the woman of my dreams:

A woman who is open.

A woman who shows up for herself and others.

A woman with strong and loving boundaries.

A woman who works with intention and from passion.

A woman able to receive.

A woman who asks for more.

and most of all...  

A woman who believes she is worthy.

Receiving the Award from the Amazing Julie Parker, Director of Beautiful You Coaching Academy.

Receiving the Award from the Amazing Julie Parker, Director of Beautiful You Coaching Academy.

Receiving the BYCA International Coach of the Year Award has been one of the greatest honors of my life.

Receiving the BYCA International Coach of the Year Award has been one of the greatest honors of my life.

The incredible coaches who also received awards for their accomplishments and programs in 2017/2018.

The incredible coaches who also received awards for their accomplishments and programs in 2017/2018.

A huge thank you to every person who has been on this path with me. It's the coolest getting to grow alongside you.


Tanya Geisler : Navigating The Impostor Complex and Finding Your Brand of Joy

Tanya Geisler : The Impostor Complex and Finding Your Brand of Joy


Tanya Geisler is someone I met the day my coaching career began, and has served as a mentor and guiding light for me ever since. Her research and insight on the Impostor Complex (you know, those fraudy feelings) makes her a go-to woman in my life when feeling disconnected from my truth.

She will remind you of your integrity, call you into joy, and make you feel right at home. That’s why I asked Tanya to be a guest mentor in my signature program, Awaken Her Soul.

Speaking with her was as rich as home-made chocolate cake. Listen to our conversation below and get a preview of the deep mentorship waiting for you when you join us in Awaken Her Soul.

If you enjoyed this interview and want more mentorship, join the Awaken Her Soul Waitlist.

More from Tanya:

Tanya Geisler is a Leadership Coach (CPCC) with a penchant for clarity and an abhorrence of the Impostor Complex. She’s worked with thousands of high-performers combat the Impostor Complex so they can step into the starring roles of their lives and achieve their ultimate goals. She has written The 12 Lies of the Impostor Complex (and One Truth)The Joy Pages, created Board of Your Life and the transformational Step into Your Starring Role coaching program, is a writer, has served as contributor and was featured in Canadian Living, and is an in-demand TEDx speaker who talks with great passion about the Impostor Complex, Unshakeable Confidence, personal leadership, on all things joy, meaning and purpose. Her clients include best-selling authors, public speakers, and rockstar world-changers.

It is her indomitable belief that if everyone knew their own unique recipe for their personal brand of joy, they’d hold the key to shining in their life, in their work and in their life’s work. (It really does change everything.)