Sunday, November 22, 2009

Delicate Threads

For the last ten years I have attended a local church, the only church that I have ever attended up till recently.  I recently decided to leave this church though hopefully not the friendships which are precious to me.  Naturally,  leaving that church has created quite a few thoughts in my head. It is long winded, but I have so many thoughts I need to get this is more for me than anyone else.

We immigrated to Canada from Northern Ireland when I was a kid. My memories of Northern Ireland are vivid as are my experiences upon arriving here. My parents never attended church as we avoided the whole Catholic Protestant issue by avoiding church completely. So, my background within church is limited. Over the years, I have come to appreciate this fact when I learn about odd dogmas within the church that I hope will always feel foreign to me, even in churches that think or believe they have no dogmas, no agendas!

Until I joined this local church, I had ignored the pull to find a church, I tried to ignore the call on my life until I could do so no more. Once I went, I was really happy there for the first few years. I experienced a lot of healing and the preaching/teaching from our Pastor was what I needed at that time. I met some amazing people that have touched my life & made some great friends. However, like all things, people change, stuff happens, blinders come off, you get hurt, you are rejected within the church, your kids grow & demand something more for themselves, & suddenly you find yourself facing change, as uncomfortable as that is.

So now I find myself in this weird place of leaving my old church for a new church. For the last two years, I have attended church sporadically. The struggle to get my kids there was huge & this caused me a lot of anguish! I want my children to grow in their faith, to have that comfort & accountability that comes with knowing Jesus & they weren't happy. I knew we all needed a change.

I knew I was being called somewhere, but similar to long ago when I finally submitted to attending church for the first time, I finally came around to the idea of joining a new church but could not get my ass in gear to get out & "shop" around. Part of it was the whole idea of where do you sit, dragging the kids from one place to another, could I find a church close to home, would my husband like it enough to maybe attend with us? Plus, there is the leaving of people & a church that I care for. I was frustrated, but felt I could pray my way through this tough season.

I recently attended a church event in the city & had a lady unexpectedly pray & speak prophetically over me. Her prayers unlocked something within me & confirmed to me that I was being called somewhere else. This had the greatest effect on me overall & while I was absorbing what she had said & how I would work that out in my daily life, a good friend of some friends of mine shocked me by leaving our church & joining the one I had been feeling called to go. I had planned to try this church with my kids for the past year, but never did get around to it because I used the slightest excuse not to leave my house on a Sunday morning.

Because I now knew someone going, it took the fear factor away from something as simple as what door you use to get inside & where to sit. Then my closest friends suddenly decided to leave our church as well. However, my friends played no part in my decision, in fact, it was a bit of a stumbling block to going as we all felt awkward & worried that it would appear like a group defection. They knew about my angst, in particular when it came to my family & I knew their own personal pain & struggles, but never did I imagine them leaving as they always expressed their desire to stay & see it through. They were the ones who always encouraged me to stay, to be sure of my decision.

So, that long winded explanation leads me to this one main observation about church. It seems that my friendships outside of church, which are based on connections other than sharing the same church space each Sunday may actually be stronger & deeper than those within the church. Which leaves me wondering why??? Why? Leaving a church matters.

I worry that the fine threads that bound me to my church will likely wither & fade. Will we be reduced to quick hellos at the grocery store, awkward encounters, & the realization that we are more connected to the local body we worship at than anything else. It leaves me feeling hollow & sad. It feels like changing schools as a kid, worse still, it gives me that icky feeling I have had my whole life when religion & belief separates people. It is weird & I feel weird.

I loved my church & the people within. However, I struggled to be there. As I reflect on my departure, I realize that I overstayed my season. My desire to fight change, my desire to not rock the boat both within my family & friendships left me hanging on to long. With finally leaving, I'm realizing that if friendships are real, they will stay strong. If they end or fizzle out then the season was meant to end. I regret not realizing that sooner. I regret allowing myself to fall into a place of doubt. The path we walk isn't meant to be easy. We will ultimately hurt the ones we love, hurt people we never intended to...even if it is just by the fact that we leave our place of worship for another. The test in any relastionships when it goes through change is will it survive?

Do I know for certain that I made the right of course not! But when God is leading you somewhere and you receive such clear direction, you have to obey!  As a bonus, I love the thumbs up my youngest son gave me after his first visit to our new church. I love the fact that getting my four kids out on a Sunday morning is easier...not perfect, but definitely easier... I feel hopeful for my husband and children that where we are now is better suited to them. I was blessed so much by my old church when I first joined, now it is their turn...though, I have to admit, I am being blessed right along with them.

I could never have been prepared for this next step in my walk if it wasn't for the experience & maturity I gained from attending my first church. I will always be grateful for that. This church will always in my heart be considered my first home. I feel like I've left the nest to live out my faith with my husband & children in a place that suits us all. We are blessed!

No comments: