I’ve not done a lot of breaking up in my lifetime. I only had two beaus before my husband. And my relationship with him was the only one I ever really considered to be ‘real,’ the other two ‘relationships’ being of the early-pubescent Jr. High variety.
Back in 7th grade when Jason G. and I were ‘going steady’ which, so far as I remember’ really only amounted to us holding hands when we roller-skated around the Jr. High gym in P.E. class, I do remember sneaking over to the classroom he’d just entered with the conviction that the relationship needed to end. Because…. I wasn’t really getting the expected gooey feelings that I thought I was supposed to get from the companionable rounds of roller skating. I think I actually used the old cliché words, “It’s not you…. It’s me,” as well as the ever-popular, “But let’s still be friends.” Ok. Give me a break. I was in 7th grade!
This time around it’s not something to make light of. And no, don’t anyone panic… Husband and I are solid. I promise Solid. He still makes my heart skip a beat.
Tonight I wrote a letter that felt very much like a break-up letter. And the saddest thing is…. It’s a break-up letter to my church. *That’s* not something that’s so easy to make light of. And, “It’s not you, it’s me,” just doesn’t seem to cut it.
It’s heart-breaking. And it’s been heart-breaking for months now. I’m not someone who cuts and runs on a church easily. We’ve attended this church since we moved here seven years ago. Ladies from this church threw me a baby shower when Carolyn was born, and another one when Alaine arrived. I put in a good deal of blood sweat and tears in a variety of areas of ministry: I worked in the nursery, I led Bible Studies, I taught Sunday school and VBS. A pew-sitter I am not. We have been connected. We have found family. We have loved this church in wide and deep ways for the majority of our adulthood.
In the last year much has changed. Yes, there was a transition in leadership, but the issues seem to have gone past the typical ‘growing pains’ that a church experiences when a new leader comes in. Over 100 members/regular attenders have moved on in the last 10-12 months, and that’s only counting those in the ‘young family’ age and stage. My husband and I did what we could to address the problems that we saw. We met with leaders, we wrote letters to leaders, we spoke to folks about why the church didn’t feel like a good ‘fit’ to them anymore to get as much insight into the problem as we could. We continued to attend and did our best to be supportive of changes. We prayed and prayed and prayed some more. Things just continued to crumble. We felt more and more in the thick of it all. We were in the middle and could see all sides and hurt for many involved. And that… that was the most heart-rending of all.
At this point, we’re NOT leaving because we ‘don’t like’ the new pastor or because of any of the ministries. It’s certainly not the people–many of whom we will always consider friends. I just simply can’t go every Sunday and have my heart break as I look around. I can’t stand the analyzing and the speculating. And at this point, my heart is so broken over it that I can’t help to be part of the solution. I can’t have the rehabilitation of the ‘young family constituency’ resting on our involvement (as it feels like it does).
We need to take some time away. My heart is healing over many things and this is just one of them. I need to be in a place where I *can* heal, not in a place where my heart and my spirit are in turmoil.
And so…. it’s a sort of breaking up. Unlike the ending of my 7th grade relationship, this one hurts. This one leaves me tender and faltering and scared. Where will we go? Will we ever find a church that feels as much like ‘home’ as this one used to? Will we be able to relax enough to do so ever again? Will I always question whether or not we made the right call or will part of me always feel like we threw in the towel despite all of our efforts to address things as directly and honestly as we could?
I don’t know. I just know that this hurts. It’s more evidence of the heart-ache that comes to us from the fall. It’s yet another thing to make me long for heaven.
It’s my hope that this ending will also bring beginnings for us. I hope to begin new relationships, learn new things. I hope to be in a place and space that will challenge my heart and spirit in new ways. I hope to come into a new place and heal a bit not just from the heart-ache at church, but also from all the other things that have left me feeling bruised and tentative and wide-eyed. I hope this will be a time that will bring a deepening for our family and a stronger bent towards Christ.
And, on top of all that, I hope that my old church family and I really can still be friends.