About 3 months ago I made the decision to leave the church that I have attended ever since I was 8 years old. Since then I have had some time to process all the baggage that came along with making that decision. It wasn’t an easy decision to make. That church was a solid rock for me in some of my toughest times and I laughed, learned, grew, and served inside those four walls. The day that I chose to leave that community was filled with a lot of mixed emotion. I knew that if I stayed I would grow more bitter, resentful, and jaded towards my faith and my fellow brothers and sister in Christ. The community that I had once depended on had become a place where even listening to my church leadership speak would bring about a very visceral response of betrayal and deep hurting. I would often sit in the pews and feel like bursting into tears. Instead, all I could do was sit there with a stone in my stomach taking large gulps to try and suppress a cracking voice and a stream of tears.
Before I made the decision to leave, I made a decision to try and work out my problems with my church leadership. When problems arose I would try and address them right away. I didn’t want to fight over something that we could solve through a little discussion. I wanted to make sure there were no misunderstandings or hurt feelings when there didn’t need to be. However, about 4 months prior to my leaving, I had given up on trying to talk through my problems. Every time I raised legitimate concerns or sought out mutual understanding I was met with an apathetic response akin to “sorry, not sorry”. Times that I had been wronged by my church leadership were quickly pushed under the rug and I never really got an authentic apology for the way they had hurt me. They never sought out ways to make things right, and I was left reeling; grasping at straws.
The thing that drove me away from my church more than anything was not a difference of opinion, but a lack of empathy and kindness.
I said earlier that the day I left my church was filled with mixed emotion. Although I have so much hurt connected to that community right now, I also have a lot of affection attached to them as well. Like I said, they were very foundational to my formation and there are still many people who I love dearly that are also members. I will never forget the way that community loved me, but I also can not forget the way they hurt me. It is possible that in the future I will make amends with that community, but as of right now I am in no position to be seeking reconciliation. My emotional state is too turbulent and I need some space from them before I can rationally approach the idea.
Needless to say, the past few months have been very emotionally taxing. The thing that I am having the most trouble with is staying in touch with people I love from that church. Many people don’t know the reasons why I left, and as of right now I plan to keep it that way. As much as I personally have a problem with that community, they are still doing some great things. I don’t want to drag my personal problems into the equation.
Many friends from that community have noticed my absence and since they want to spend more time with me have started to invite me out to events at that church more frequently. Every time I am invited to an event, it hurts a little. I am being welcomed into a space where I have been wounded, and although I want to trust them once again, I can’t seem to. Since I don’t want to slander that community, I have opted to remain quiet about it and tell people that I have chosen to move on from that space (without giving many details). However, secretly in the back of my mind, I am wishing that something or someone will prompt them to dig a little further into some of the secrets that that church would prefer to keep hidden.
Recently I have started to attend a few other church communities in the area, and I am very hopeful that I will find a place of peace and love once again. This process is full of hope but also full of uneasiness. In some regard I am still grieving the loss of my previous church community and sometimes I don’t want to be around anyone on Sunday mornings. I have amazing friends and family who have been there for me during this transition, and I know that God will be there with me as I navigate finding a new community.