I mentioned in a previous post that we have changed churches. I don't think that I have anything very eloquent to say about this, plus we really aren't broadcasting it to anyone at our old church, hence why I really haven't talked about it. But part of me just wants to share about it, because it's a BIG STINKING DEAL, and since everything in life can affect recovery, it seems wise to open the flood gate on this one.
We've been unhappy at our church for a few years. We just felt we weren't growing there anymore, or learning much of anything. It was a great 'starter' church for us, where the people became like family, and genuinely cared for one another. But as the years went by, the things available for the men dwindled, and the Sunday school classes descended into group therapy rather than Bible study. Still, we stayed. We were involved in just enough that to leave would be difficult, and we loved the people so much. We made many close friends there over the years. But we continued to be unhappy, and were completely frustrated by the lack of 'meaty' sermons. You can only grow so much as a Christian if all you hear are Dr. Phil-esque lessons on life. I am not diametrically opposed to those kinds of sermons, but if they are all you are being fed, you are slowly becoming malnourished.
A year ago in November I had a conversation with one of my closest girlfriends about the situation. As I shared all that we were frustrated or fed up with, she gently pointed out to me that I didn't need to continue to pray about this, because God was clearly showing us the door. I resisted her point, but she repeated back to me all of the things I had told her, and asked, if the roles were reversed, would I tell her to stay or go? I knew in my heart that I had my answer. I had prayed repeatedly, and time and again He had answered me. I needed to stop asking Him questions that He had already answered. I asked her why, then, couldn't we go? She said, 'because you don't want to'. The truth was that we had a certain measure of comfort in the familiar, and to leave would be to start over in a foreign land.
So we stayed, still unhappy, but too hard-headed to do what we should. It wasn't until the beginning of August, when the Man and I hit a breaking point, that we were able to make the decision. Our marriage was a mess, we couldn't communicate, we bickered, we festered, we were unreasonable. There was a low point where I just wanted to check out of the marriage, not legally, but just emotionally. I was tired of trying. The Man and I sat down one night, and amidst many tears, we knew we had to do something drastic. We asked ourselves, if we were in a church that was feeding us spiritually, where we were learning and growing and walking in our faith the way that we were supposed to be, would we be struggling in our marriage like this? We agreed right then and there that we would finally make the change.
And now here we are, over a year after my conversation with my friend before we finally did leave. I slowly extracted myself from my commitments and we quietly left. Some of our friends have also recently left, but not for all of the same reasons. Some core reasons are the same, but individual disagreements have contributed more to their departures. My one friend stated that he would like to have left but kept his membership there, so that he could go back if circumstances changed. I thought about that, but realized that if we were going to uproot our children and take them on this journey, then we could not do so with the idea of waiting things out. We need to be committed to this change, and not to sound too Frodo-esque, but I think that over time we will realize, there is no going back. The church we have left would not be the same church that we would go back to years from now. A church is made up of changing individuals, and as such, is a fluid entity. I have found this to be very true when I have gotten together with the 'old gang' from my drinking days, and felt uncomfortable. Time has changed all of us, and sobriety has opened my eyes to a lot of things. I don't belong in that circle of friends anymore, even if they wanted me, which I'm pretty sure they do not. And that's ok now. As I go forward making my amends, I have peace about leaving that life behind.
And so it must be with this change. I have to let God give me peace about leaving that church life behind, even as it is so difficult to start all over again. We will make new friends. We will find a new niche for our family. I have left behind the Remembrance Services, which was one of the main things that held me back from leaving in the past. I wasn't willing to give those up, nor did I feel like God had released me from it. I needed to see it through. But something happened this year, a change in me that I did not expect. I became ready to finally let go. In my head I had always been willing to let go of the past, and lay my children to rest. But in my heart, I was incapable of doing this. Holding that Remembrance Service every January was a way to keep their memory alive, but it also served to keep wounds open. When God finally answered my prayers for answers, and gave me permission to walk away, I balked. It may seem senseless to someone on the outside, but when you have lost a baby, and all you have left is your grief, you are reticent to let that go. The pain was all I had left of them. I know that it's time now, and I must let go and move on. I don't know how to do that, but I'm trying.
After talking and praying about this decision for so long, having made it seems anti-climatic in some ways. We have been at the new church for a few Sundays now, and are hoping to join a small group in the new year. The Man is incredibly happy, and his joy is enormously helpful to me. I need his affirmation that we made the right choice, and that we are in this together. God had told me that 2008 was going to be a big year for us, and it has been. It has been an incredibly difficult and painful year, with many challenges. We have grown in unexpected ways, and I look forward to seeing where He leads us.