I’ve been wrestling with this now for so many months, the wilderness-feeling, the loneliness-feeling. The not-fitting feeling.
This is me, leaving my church.*
All the language I have to describe what’s happening sounds more fitted for divorce than for church. My church isn’t wrong or bad, but it’s just not right for me anymore. We’ve grown apart. I need to take some time to myself, and then I’ll slowly begin to see other people.
It’s not them; it’s me.
Because my heart just doesn’t fit within evangelicalism anymore. What I need is a church that focuses on cultivating a deeper dependence on God and a posture of welcoming and listening to the Holy Spirit, and then allows those things to reshape the individuals into people more like Christ — not a church that builds frames and says, Becoming Christlike means fitting into these; here’s how to fold yourself properly so you can squeeze yourself in. My heart needs a body of believers that sees Christlikeness not as a duty but a promise. A body that seeks to use equality and justice as tools to usher in the upside-down kingdom of God. A place where there is room for not knowing, for exploring, for wondering, doubting, asking questions without easy answers.
I keep wanting to emphasize that this isn’t a bad church. They are good, generous, kind people who want to follow Jesus. God is at work in them and in the church. God has used this church and these people to grow me and change me. But then I kept growing and changing until I became a person who doesn’t fit there anymore.
This all sounds very reasonable, right? I’m writing it out because I need to keep looking at it, at how reasonable and logical it all seems, because the self-doubt keeps hitting and I feel like there must be something wrong with me if I can’t get what I need from this good church, and then there I go, making it all about me, and the fact that I’m so selfish just shows how much I need to stay in church.
And mixed in with all of it is the grief — this is the church where my babies were dedicated, where my boys have always been welcomed and known and loved, with teachers who have gone out of their way to help them feel comfortable and safe. This is the church where Aaron grew up, where we met and began dating way back in 1997, where we were married four years later. This is where I met my best friend, where I slowly let myself become vulnerable with the older women in my weekly Bible study.
This church used to be home. And now it isn’t. And so now there is grieving and homelessness and not knowing quite what to say or how to feel.
But in the meantime there is Twitter church and the Renovatus Church podcast. There is the slow process of healing from the defensiveness and cynicism and bitterness that had crept across my heart at my old church. And then there will be the long search for the next right place.
*I say “me” because while Aaron is very much in agreement with this decision, it has largely been my decision. Aaron’s job ties up his Sunday mornings, so the task of finding and moving our family to a new church falls largely to me.