Breaking up

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.

My heart does not need any more penal substitutionary atonement or Real Marriage or True Womanhood; this probably goes without saying.

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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.

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*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.

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5 thoughts on “Breaking up

  1. Abi,

    I am proud of you for coming to this decision. I understand how hard this must have been for you. I was fortunate enough to have an inciting incident that allowed me to walk away with a clean an immediate break up. I have faith you will find the right place for your family.

    Love,

    Erin

  2. I want to drive over and give you a hug. I’ve left a couple of churches in the last 15 years. Once, it was a place I’d loved and that loved me, but I felt that God was calling me to something different than that church did — I felt like he’d closed my ears to sermons I used to think were the be all and end all. We tried many different things there, even getting more deeply invested, but wound up leaving that church to help revitalize a tiny multiracial church: we followed the strong push of the Spirit and left TO somewhere. But then we left that church (18 months ago), and that was a much, much more painful leaving, because we weren’t going to anywhere. We were just leaving. I cried in every church we went to for four months. I wrote incessantly about failure, feeling lost, wanting to know the future. So I don’t envy your time after this break-up, but I do know that God is with you, and that you’ll find somewhere. Eventually. It won’t be perfect, either. But it will be energizing and life-giving. And in the meantime, take a period of rest, as a gift to yourself — don’t go church shopping right away. And for now: enjoy your vacation. B)

  3. 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.

    THIS…… Right here. Is what I’ve been feeling. I’m sitting with this post today as this is a decision I’ve been wrestling with. It’s a painful, aching almost pulling apart of what I thought I knew and what I want to know outside of the four walls of an evangelical church.
    And I just can’t keep going.
    This was a resting place for me. Thank you.

  4. Hi, I really just stumbled upon your site. I’m a really young Christian when it comes to who I am in Christ. When I read through this, I had something I wanted to tell you but it slipped through one ear and out the other. To tell you the truth, you are exactally how God made you. I’m not trying to sound ‘churchy’, but I’ve found that where I am is where God wants me to try. Not just to be there but to try to do. Find the people who are going through this within the church. There are always people who are going or who have gone through the same doubt you are.
    Pray and read (the Bible). I’ve always found a journal to be helpful!

    God bless!

    Redd

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