I’m an expert at reinventing myself—I’ve been a science writer, a novelist, a video producer, web designer, business advisor, a B2B marketer, and more. I’ve lived in three countries and so many cities that I’ve lost count.

My latest reinvention has been the hardest but the one that has taught me the most. I went from panic attacks and depression to peace and happiness.

I grew up in the Christian church since I was 9. There I kept busy—from leading worship to participating in every existing group: evangelism, missions, youth…

I was immersed in that culture and lifestyle. So much so that at one point in my teenage years I was convinced the purpose of my life was to die for the sake of the gospel.

Interestingly, within the subculture of the evangelical churches in Latin America (I’m from Colombia), there’s a subliminal message being fed to the youth: there’s no greater privilege than serving God; the only worthy pursuit in life is to become a minister. 

Although I attended university, got a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree in journalism and worked for 10 years in that field, the subliminal message from the church was so strong that it had become a repressed desire that finally exploded and I ended up becoming a pastor.

Even after living in North America for 13 years and becoming Canadian citizens, we sold everything and returned to my hometown of Medellin, Colombia, with only our clothes, to plant a church.

Slowly, the congregation began to grow and we were able to help a few families and develop a beautiful community. I had fulfilled my lifelong desire and felt great.

Honestly, at that moment I felt I was at the top of my game. I was respected in the Christian circles of the city, I was leading my own organization, and every week I got to do what I loved the most — public speaking and teaching.

Not everything was perfect, though.

Most of what happens behind the scenes at churches is actually more mundane than spiritual. It’s an exhausting routine where church members demand from their pastors more than they can humanly give; where the destruction of the pastors’ families is an occupational hazard and where envy, gossip and back stabbing among leaders is the daily bread.

Many pastors are sick, depressed and broke. Here in Latin America, people think that pastors make a lot of money or that planting a church is an easy way to become rich—but the truth is that only 5% of the pastors I’ve met in the past 30 years are financially estable. 

Quite a few go hungry and even have to get a job on the side to pay for the church’s expenses.

My family experienced it first hand and for a couple of years we ate mainly lentils and rice. 

It was then, in the midst of financial lack, a broken marriage and the impossible demands of some church members, that I began to question my paradigms.

My mindset began to shift. So I began sharing my thoughts with the church and started making changes to the way the meetings were conducted, so they would reflect what the New Testament church looked like—an organic community of believers where there were no titles or hierarchy. Many disliked the changes and left the church. They preferred the traditional rituals where they were mere spectators and the pastor provided training, inspiration, advice and spiritual teachings.

Three months later the congregation was decimated and we were being criticized and judged left and right.

The pressure and shock were so intense that I became depressed and started suffering from anxiety attacks. My marriage was hanging from a thread and I had to make a decision: trying to save the church or save my marriage.

I decided to save my marriage and we closed the church. We moved away from Medellin, with no fixed income and broken hearts.

We had no other option but to reinvent ourselves.

Looking back at the process I went through in the year after closing the church, I realize that I followed five stages to reinvent myself. Those five stages are five steps that may help you as well.

Interested in learning them? Take my free email course where I share those five steps to get you started.