WARNING: the following is of a personal nature and unlikely to be entertaining. It’s also a VERY long post. Proceed at your own risk.
So a year ago, Jack and I resigned all our teaching and committee positions at our church, pulled our kids out of all church-sponsored programs and began homechurching (kinda like homeschooling, but without the denim jumpers and braids.) It was not an easy decision. Jack and I had been members of that church on and off (depending on where God had taken us- moves, college, etc.) for most of our lives, we met and were married there and had devoted an enormous amount of our lives to building the children’s program in that church for many years.
Something you might need to understand about me and Jack is that we feel called to do God’s work. That call has evolved as our understanding of what God has for us has evolved, but it’s still there. We’ve tried to downscale, compartmentalize and even ignore that pull on our life, but it always sneaks back in. Big and consuming. It fulfills. It makes us happy.
But a year ago we were very unhappy. Unhappy with the direction our church had taken. Unhappy with our part in that direction. Jack’s health was deteriorating and our family and work responsibilities were growing. God was telling us it was time for a change in our priorities and that that change meant leaving our church. It was necessary for us and for the church. We needed a break from slamming against brick walls which were hurting our relationships with others and with God and the church needed us to release some responsibility so others could contribute.
(I know this is long. I’m posting this more for catharsis-sake than for blogging-sake, so go on and skip to the end if you want. I’ll be there.)
So we flopped around for several months, having Sunday School with our kids at home and visiting friends and family’s churches, not satisfied, but not able to quantify what we were looking for. In November we started regularly attending my grandmother’s small church. It’s a different denomination than we’re used to but we’re comfortable there. I grew up with the members of this church -who are mostly older- being friends and surrogate grandparents. My kids love the pouring out of attention and love they’ve received. In fact, my only qualm about this church is how could we ever leave (not that we’re planning to leave) after they’ve embraced us so whole-heartedly and gone so out of their way to make us feel welcome and provide for our kids?
Which (kinda) brings me to my dilemma. A couple months ago, the church we left hired an Intentional Interim. An Intentional Interim is a pastor who comes to shepherd a church through a period of transition with the sole intent of healing. It’s something Jack and I had been praying for this church for a long time. Night before last the Interim visited Jack, wanting us to return to fold. Or at least come to the Bible study he’s starting this coming Sunday night- the first step of the healing process.
I have to admit that I have very mixed feelings about doing this. On the one hand is the personal: I have been very happy not dealing with the members of that church. A great deal of social and marital stress was taken from my life when we left. We were hurt and I’m obviously not ready to forgive. I also have very little faith that the process will work here. The Interim has already had to modify his usual timetable because the church would not commit to more than one hour per week of study. Does this sound like a church crying for change??!!
On the other hand is the need for a thriving, loving, reaching church in our community. This church is an established, well equipped (at least materially) institution of the community and is perfectly positioned for meeting the needs in this town. A town that needs God. A town that God has brought us to time and time again. The Interim made a comment to the effect of ‘if the strong leave, who’s left to pull the barge?’ Rationally I have to agree with his idea. (Irrationally I have to retort ‘you have no idea how long and through what muck we’ve tried to pull that barge!’) That church needs people like us. My question is does that church need US?
(I know it’s been long and wordy (and not a little bitter,) but keep with me. We’re nearly there!)
Please don’t misunderstand. Jack and I are not discussing returning to the church. We know we’re not ready for that. We are discussing attending the Bible study. I know we probably should for our own healing if not for the church’s. What I want is your opinions. Surely we’re not the only ones out there going through this. Maybe some of you have even survived this situation. And I want your prayers. More than anything Jack and I want to do what God wants us to do. Please pray that we would be open to what that is.
Okay we made it. I promise not to keep you so long next time. Thanks for listening!