It’s true. Over the last three years I have found myself spending almost all of my time outside of a church building or wider Christian community. This is rather unusual for me as I’ve been in some sort of church environment since I was a child and most consistently, almost obsessively, since the age of nineteen. How did I get here at the age of thirty three? And what does this mean?
I guess there are a lot of reasons I could list off for why I found my passion for the church environment waning and ultimately dying out entirely. From my introspection it would seem that the primary reasons for abandonment would be 1) The Church has been the source of the greatest hurts, betrayals, and disappointments of my life and 2) It feels like it’s lost its mission.
Now, to admit I have left the Church is not to admit that I have abandoned my faith or walked away from God. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love Him as much now as ever – but in a different way than I’d previously experienced or expressed. I’m sure I’ll write more about that in future posts. For now, I’ll keep this blog focused on the title.
From the very late summer of 2018 to present day my church attendance began to dwindle, my church community gradually scattered, and I found myself breathing in deeply the relief of no longer obliging myself to seek acceptance in an environment that felt further and further from who I was becoming. That isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate the Church and have a high value for what it *could* offer and the role it has played in my life. I sincerely do. If it weren’t for some of the extreme betrayals that I experienced within it, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today – clear sighted, wise and resilient. It taught me great lessons. It also brought powerful opportunities to experience God in ways I had never given myself permission to in the past and it introduced me to incredible people that will certainly remain lifelong friends. Because true friendship lasts outside the bounds of church attendance, right?
I know I’ve heard it said that Jesus and His Church are one and the same. But I disagree – at least in regards to the modern church era; e.g. variations of the corporate culture – large buildings, meticulously timed and orchestrated worship, scripted announcements, one singular human voice speaking to the masses, churning out multiple services per Sunday. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before – “the modern church looks very little like the Jesus we know in the Bible”…so I don’t think I need to belabor the same argument which so many religious refugees before me have been espousing for years with little to no impact. What I can say is, it simply isn’t for me, anymore, for now.
I haven’t fully fleshed out all the benefits I have gained by exiting the religious environment and am not writing this blog to encourage anyone to walk the path I have, but to simply say that in the last three years since ending my full-time commitment to the Church I don’t miss it in any way. Not even a little bit.
This is hard to admit in some ways because I have been part of some ministries that the wider Christian faith respects and takes steer from and there is plenty I could say in regards to the good and the not so good of each of them. But I don’t feel like doing that. I feel like simply expressing what is true for me right now – nothing more, and nothing less.
So what does this mean for me now? I am learning to walk in the dark. I am learning how to walk with Jesus on my own, surrounded only by the few people who I trust with both the way they love God and the way they love others and themselves. This is my church now. And while it hasn’t been easy and has felt much like the uncertainty you feel when you take the training wheels off your bicycle for the first time, it is exhilaratingly exciting to watch myself grow and change without the threat of judgment, alienation, or the passive pull to keep quiet about the wildness of my thoughts and questions.
I’ve waited nearly two years to put pen to paper and admit fully to myself and thus anyone who reads this that I have left. I guess I’ve decided that I am finally ready to own my choices. I’ll share more of my journey as the courage finds me.