I've left the church before.
It's not like this is new to me. But the bitterness, the angst and frustration, that's new. I don't just feel done, I feel undone.
I could never earn your heart
I could never reach that far
In two years, I will be able to say half my life was spent in a suffocating religion following rules while the other half has been an exhausting attempt at unraveling the first half, or at least trying to, so I can experience God and interact with spirituality in my own way. I've come to understand that my past has not defined my future, but it has informed it.
I've always bucked tradition. I've always been tempted to break rules. And I've never really fit in.
You've never let me go
I'm safe forever in Your arms
I left the church when I was 18 because I wanted to be independent of everything I had been taught to accept as truth; everything my parents devoted their lives to instilling in me. It wasn't because I didn't love my mom and dad, or that I resented their efforts, it was simply because I was learning how to be an adult and it seemed like the best place to start. I was tired of feeling like I was pretending to be someone I wasn't. I wanted to know who I really was stripped of religion and routine church attendance. In my discovery of self, bitterness never grew roots as I doubted and questioned. The seeking was finally my own, and that's all I needed: the freedom to find my own answers.
Your love is, your love is
Leaving the church at 34 - having seen behind the curtain of full-time church ministry as a staff member and pastor's wife, where what you do becomes what you believe in - I find myself engaging bitterness on a consistent basis. When my husband and I quit working at the church in June, I was fine. There were no ill feelings toward our pastor, the staff, or members of the congregation. I was blissfully happy having Sundays back in our control.
Then, a ton of bricks. And all because a single text message wasn't responded to in a timely manner.
When you give five years of your life to a church, you come to see those you serve alongside as extended family - if you're lucky. Then you leave and you still think of those people as your family, but you quickly realize your mistake. That family only exists for you if you are in proximity to them; doing what they are doing and being about what they are about. Two and a half hours away, I've learned we are just too far to interact with for most.
Your love is loyal.
I began to spiral from the lack of response, the lack of basic human kindness. And no longer working at a church has caused me to question if I really believe in the church. I was halfway through the write 31 days challenge; my brother recovering from surgery to remove his appendix and my father-in-law going in to heart surgery due to a 99% blocked artery. All I needed was to know those in my [former] church family - those I had served with - who were dedicated to their faith and believed in the power of prayer were praying.
My request fell flat. Of the ones I reached out to - more than I can count on my fingers and toes - only two texted me back. Then three days later, one more. Five days after that, one more. And by then I was past wanting to hear from anyone. I was past feeling reassured by digital prayers.
You are always there for me
You listen every time I speak
Meanwhile, I started my new job.
During the first week, I was oddly thrilled at joining the masses in early morning traffic. I'd wait in long lines for coffee, perfectly content with the baristas acting unaware at each car's persistence to get things moving because can't you see we have somewhere to be?! I was immune to my fellow travelers who didn't manage their time well, determined to force me to speed up or move over with all their honking and waving of hands - when I was already going above the speed limit - because clearly it was my fault they didn't get out of bed when they should have.
Having survived week three, my transition into "the real world" has grown very hard very fast. Last week I remembered quitting my insurance job five years ago and vowing never to do office work again; flashbacks to sitting at my desk opening my mail and finding a letter I wrote my senior year in high school, a letter to my future self, and in the first paragraph pleading, "Please tell me you're not still working in a cubicle."
Turns out, five years of making your own schedule - and not being held accountable - followed by four months of unemployment and adventure will make you cry all the way to work. At first, I thought it was the extensive training, the learning of new terminology, the risk of doing something wrong with someone else's money; I was overwhelmed and pressuring myself to know everything quickly. But as I've begun to wilt and die a slow death in fresh new business attire, I've realized it's because I've become a person driven by all things creative and flexible and do-it-however-you-want-to because it's about the journey, not the result. I'm no longer a person who wants to conform to the keeping-of-a-job-you-don't-love-just-to-pay-the-bills because society says that's just the way things work.
Your promises I can not break
And I know You will never change
Minutes before closing the office yesterday, another administrator called me in an attempt to welcome me to the company and assure me I would love my new "career" because she's "been here 16 years and has loved every minute". It was everything I could do not to burst into tears. I don't need a cheerleader when I haven't been able to do what I love for three weeks; when I haven't been able to edit and publish the next chapter of my book because I'm so damn exhausted when I get home.
Thankfully, my boss is open and understanding. A week before I started my job, she invited me into her home to have lunch with her friends. She asked each of us to share something that is inspiring and encouraging us. It was the first time in years I wasn't gathering together with women because we all attend the same church; all pretending to believe the same things, complete with the safe, comfortable lives and the masking of our realities because even though we say messy is invited, it's really not. Meeting my boss' friends was refreshing in a way I didn't know I needed to be refreshed. These women were unabashedly honest and I wasn't shy about inserting myself into the conversation.
So as much as I want to quit my job, I won't. Because of who my boss is. And even though I've quit the church, I haven't quit my faith. Because of who God is.
You look into my eyes
You see the things I hide
And say that You will never leave
October came to a close.
Recapping 31 Confessions, I decided to open up the series for comments for the first time. I wanted to know overall how people reacted and gage how some readers were processing the content. Someone felt the confessions read more like statements. And? Who cares how they read? I didn't know confessing required a certain format.
But, again, the comments that derailed me were those riddled with Christian speak.
The, "I'm sad for this person but they should know that the church is full of people and they can't put their faith in people, they need to put their faith in Jesus," to which I wanted to say, "But aren't we supposed to be known for the love we have for each other?"
"I just prayed that each confessor would continue to seek the Lord and trust in Christ through the Word so they can be led to the feet of Jesus," to which I wanted to respond, "WHAT ARE YOU SAYING? SPEAK ENGLISH."
It's no wonder Christians aren't opening up. Using distracting Christianese makes people feel unheard, and it makes it abundantly clear that you either don't know what to say, how to listen, or don't want to bother interacting with the reality of someone's life.
This time, the leaving of the corporate American church feels very permanent.
More faithful than the rising sun
This grace for me I can't outrun
Here's what you need to know if you're lost by my thought process and have made it this far. I don't want to return to corporate American church until something changes. And because I'm skeptical by nature, I don't believe anything will. So I guess I'm saying that in the thickness of our transition out of ministry, being equally hurt and annoyed, I cannot stomach your Christianity if it's cloaked in fluffy lingo, empty reassurances, misguided advice, scripture-quoting and bible-thumping, or the lack of care for another human being despite whether you agree or disagree, understand or cannot relate.
Don't tell me my husband and I just "need to find another church, a good one." Don't place conditions on my processing with statements like, "As long as you're still doing something on Sundays."
As I've said before, my writing is shifting and I am no longer "So I Married a Youth Pastor" - I expect to confuse and lose followers.
When my world shakes
Your love remains unshaken
If you'll spend your time under a bridge feeding the homeless who are likely addicted to drugs and need food to soak up the alcohol they've binged on for the past 48 hours, or you'll travel to another country to share the gospel while installing a clean water well or adopt colored babies whose parents cannot care for them or who have died, or you are cleaning up after a natural disaster because loving Jesus means loving people when they are the midst of destruction and their lives are uprooted, but then you judge another Christian "brother" or "sister" who sits on the same pew with you in your church, who lives on the same street as you, and takes their kids to the same school as your kids, because they make you uncomfortable with their admissions of struggling with porn or having an abortion or being attracted to the same sex or losing their virginity to someone who isn't going to be their spouse or questioning every aspect of their faith, then I don't want to hear about your feeble attempts at being noble and righteous. They are lost on me.
Why is it easier for American Christians to go to other countries and be the kind of people the church desperately needs them to be here?
When my world falls
Your love remains unfailing
In our transition out of ministry and into new business ventures having nothing to do with church, with me learning how to "career" again, I'm finding God outside of the Christian culture; outside of the traditions that taught me Christianity is "right" and outside of those claiming to be his people.
I have not lost my faith, I am finding it. And though it feels very raw and very hard, even more so it feels like I am being true to who I am in the purest sense. Because authenticity. Because honesty.
My past informed my future.
I am never going to be the kind of person who can easily slip into the mold of Christianity. I don't fit there, and if I begin to fit, I'll always find a way to sharpen my edges so it's difficult to get me in without a good shove. And if I have to force myself into a box in the first place, or ask someone if they'd do the honors, it's likely I was never meant to be invited.
Christianity can't hold me. But God always will.
Your love is, your love is Your love is loyal.
Lauren Daigle, Loyal