Signs, Signs, Everywhere There’s Signs: Here’s Yours
May 13, 2009
I have been unhappy, and haven’t been spiritually fed for years, nevertheless, I have stayed for many reasons. I have been at this church all my life. I have built friendships and relationships there that can never be replaced. 31 years of history is there, including many fond childhood memories.
I’ve stayed because of my anxiety. Will I be accepted somewhere else? Will I be, “good enough”? Quite frankly, I am scared as hell of walking into another church as the “new guy”. I’ve never been the new guy.
I’ve stayed because of my family. My husband hasn’t wanted to leave when I’ve broached the subject with him, which is strange considering that I’m the one with the history there. The kids know it there, they’re happy there, they have friends there. None of my guys are anxious to leave. Furthermore, my dad was raised there, and on one occasion when my sis and I have talked about leaving he has made it very clear that he would not approve.
I’ve stayed because of other people. Many of my friends there are also unhappy and I feel that I would be abandoning them if I leave. Many of the members have treated our current pastor horribly, and I felt like I will be letting him down if I go.
I’ve stayed because of my pride. Because I’ve wanted to stay and fight for “my” church. Because I want to be more assertive and not let Christians treat each other, and the pastor, like crap. I’ve stayed because I didn’t want “them” to think that the pastor ran me off, and give them more fuel for their fire.
In staying I have become very bitter about my church. I don’t really like going there. I come home in tears nearly every Sunday. For over 5 years, I have cried about church almost weekly, and thought about leaving a hundred times a day.
In my unrest I have asked God for signs, that I was doing the right thing by staying. He’s given me signs, signs that I should leave, and I’ve argued. I’ve said, “Ya know what God, I’m not sure that was a sign, if you really mean it, send me another one”. And he does. And I reply, “I’m still not sure, send me another one”. And we’ve gone on like that, God and I, for over 5 years. And then, in my stupidity, thinking that I know more than God, I have concluded, “well, God keeps keeping me here, so this must be where he wants me”.
Sunday before last was typical. More unrest, petty Sunday school drama, me coming home crying. I saw then that I needed to leave, but opted to give it another try the next week because my sister was starting a new class for Karate Boy’s age.
After my sis spent the week preparing a lesson and activities for the 5 plus kids she would have in class that week, she eventually wound up with only 2 of the 5 that were there in that age group. Several of the parents wouldn’t send their kids, opting instead to keep them in the preschool class because they want their kids to be with their siblings and the teacher they have grown accustomed to. This teacher has as teenage assistant that has treated several adults and children very badly. Sunday she came into my sisters class and led some of the kids out of there, the ones that are her pets. When sis tried to talk to her, the teenager shut the door in her face. My sister left before worship in tears, vowing to never come back.
Our pastor saw her, and tried unsuccessfully to find out the reason behind her tears. During prayer concerns, he mentioned running into her, and encouraged anyone that thinks they may have done something to hurt her feelings to talk to her, adding that, he could see no reason that someone should leave a place of worship, surrounded by other Christians, crying tears of sadness. His words were like a ton of bricks. “He’s absolutely right, there is no reason. I’ve cried tears of sadness because of church nearly every week for the last five years and I’m done”, I thought. In that moment, I knew that I probably wouldn’t be back. I could no longer be in denial. There was my sign, the final message that I should leave, directly from the mouth of my pastor. I giggled inside as I thought about God saying, “here’s your sign” in the style of redneck commedian Bill Engvall.
Once I had made up my own mind, I had to broach the subject with my loved ones. My husband said, “you know I’ll support you whatever you want to do?”…….”ummm….no, I didn’t know. But now that I do know, let’s try something new”, I said. He was still uncertain, but I told him that there was no harm in trying other places, and that we could always go back if we felt led to. During our conversation my sister called to tell me that she had talked with our dad about her leaving and his reply was that he would support it. “I’m not even sure how much longer we’ll be there either”, he said, as he has recently been hurt by a myraid of petty occurrances. “Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs”, I thought, as I watched two of my excuses that have held me back for so long go down in flames.
With the support of my family, the next step was finding out where to start attending. I have felt God leading me to a particular church in our area for a while. We attended the fall festival there, many of karate boy’s school friends attend there, and it’s where the boys have gone for the Wednesday night kid’s program for the last 7 months or so, and they have learned so much more than in the 6 years at our church. J and I agreed that this church should be our starting point, and I decided to find out what time services start next Sunday. From the church’s website, I found the information I needed, along with much more. Whilst reading some of the church’s history, I recognized a name of a former pastor. I asked J where I knew the name from, and he reminded me that it was the name of one of his father’s good friends, whom his father attended pastoral school with. It turns out at J’s father’s funeral, this man had told us that he was the pastor there years ago. We had both forgotten. J was raised over 50 miles from here, in another state, and the church we are talking about is in a tiny town. Call me crazy, but I see this conicidence as another sign from above.
Upon further investigation of the church’s website I discovered many things that peaked my interest. The offering of a children’s church program lead me to wonder how I would act being able to finally hear a sermon. And a cooking ministry? Wow. Cooking for people is my talent. It’s what I do. It’s what I love. Another sign, which was followed by many more that I won’t bore you with . Just know, the signs have been raining down from the heavens this week.
Our current church is divided, much like everthing, into haves and have-not’s. The have’s do very little, mainly put money in the collection plate and delegate how it’s spent, or not. One of my biggest issues lately with our church is money. We have nearly 40 grand in the bank, and we’re a small church. I firmly believe that if we were doing our job as a church, we wouldn’t, espically considering our economic climate. The have-not’s do the legwork on whatever project the have’s think is approporiate, usually something to do with beautifying the church. The have not’s, including myself, are tired of doing everything, and subsequently, nobody cares anymore. Beyond Sunday mornings, there is very little going on. I am excited to go somewhere where I can be involved as much, or as little as I want.
Since last Sunday word of my sister’s leaving has spread like wildfire via facebook. Many have tried to talk her out of it. One middle-aged man even commented, “if you leave, “they” win”, and whilst I know where he’s coming from, and I’m guilty of doing so myself, the fact that we have resorted to an “us” and “them” mentality, is disturbing. I pondered his comment for a few minutes before deciding to let, “them” “win”. Currently, I leave church bitter and hateful, emotions that benefit no one. If I go somewhere else, and I’m happy, we both win. They may “win” the battle, but the war is mine. Although I have dropped hints, I don’t think many people know of my decision to also leave the church. Their potential reactions scare me, and I can only hope and pray that in the end they are happy for me.
On paper, the church we are planning on visiting next Sunday seems like the obvious choice. However, from the Wednesday night program I have found the people to be hard to warm up to. Additionally, it’s out of my comfort zone, denomonation wise, and I venhemently disagree with some of their stances and beliefs. I don’t know where we will end up. For all I know we may find out that the grass isn’t greener on the other church lawn. I do know that I want to give this a try, even though I’m scared as hell.