**I reeeealllly hesitated posting this. But as I often remind myself, this blog is for me. It’s healing and cathartic. And so, I think this post deserves to see the light. Some things need to be spoken to be lifted from our shoulders. And speak it I will.**
This is one of those things I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to write down, let alone share “publicly”. But sometimes the Universe picks and picks and picks at you until you finally cave. And so here we are. Maybe it’s most appropriate to start with a quote. I’ve been reading a lot of Mandy Hale recently. Mostly her Instagram posts. But I traversed down “You Are Enough” and very much enjoyed it. Certain things just resonated.
I served and served and served the church because that was what was expected of me. And in the process, I lost sight of what it meant to simply serve God”.Mandy Hale
That hit home. I’m a cradle church-goer. My parents actually met at the church I grew up at and they were married there as well. That place was so formative in who I am today, and so many connections have been made there over the years that are priceless. I found my first calling at that place. I fell in love with serving youth and children there. I had what felt like an unshakeable faith and was deeply connected and committed to the religion. But then college hit. And though my major still kept my faith life afloat, and I connected with Christian and Methodist clubs and activities, I was quick to let myself sleep in on Sunday mornings. And I was quick to make excuses for why I couldn’t find a church home away from home.
My summers though provided much of the faith and spirituality I needed to ride me over for a whole year. Working with ASP reminded me of the love of Christ, the grace of God, and the magic of the mist over the mountains. I learned about prayer and deep love in those mountains.
When I graduated from college it took a bit to find a job in my profession, but thanks to the “old school” nature of my dad, I answered a classified ad about a position and things fell into place. And as much as t
hat place those people fed my soul, that place drained me and stole my own spirituality and belief of organized religion from me. If I’m honest, brutally honest, I stayed too long. I was there almost ten years. Those people became my friends, many of them became family. And it’s hard to see your friends and family act in ways you’d never imagine. It’s hard to see the home you’ve helped build and upkeep be stripped of its drywall when all that was needed was a few new coats of paint.
Some were shocked when I left. Others knew it was coming, that I had had 4-5 other job offers over those 10 years. But I’d always been too afraid of making that jump into the unknown (cue Frozen II sing-along here). I was too afraid from leaving my kiddos. I was too afraid of walking away from people I love. I was, simply put, too afraid. But there comes a time in your life when you realize you can’t live bound by fear. Or rather, you need to act on what God is calling you to despite of the fear. The last year and a half had been the biggest struggle. Not just because of COVID, though I’m sure that exacerbated things.
The last year and a half of my time there showed me how undervalued I was. And, yes, I am fully aware that I have a skewed perspective. Every story has more than one side. But this is my story. And I own that not everyone saw or experienced the same thing. I literally poured my everything into my job. I sacrificed who I was, and the time I had, because I loved the people. But that love was not often reciprocated in more than just words. I was given a title change after 8ish years. But not the added benefits of the title: no raise, no extra time off, no sabbatical time, no continuing education relief. Just more assignments and work to be done. I was mandated to be in the office at least twice a week when part time staff and my boss were free to manage their own time without restrictions. I was micromanaged and told how I was and wasn’t allowed to carry out my tasks and responsibilities: which seemed harsh and heavy handed when I had been doing this job ten years in the same community, a community I knew very well and has listened to and done ministry alongside of. I watched as a place I loved and valued lost their collective sense of autonomy, creativity, and passion. They were told how to dream, they were told how to respond, they were told that everything they’d built could be scrapped for the vision of a leader who had little care to invest deeply and meaningfully in their lives. I watched, sometimes silently and often with a bleeding tongue, as the wool was pulled further and further over their eyes.
I think there were many things that led to me
wanting to needing to leave. I was raised to use my voice, but too long my voice went unheard, rather unlistened to; my complaints and concerns fell on deaf ears. I was unhappy. My mental health was constantly being challenged. I was not excited about the work I was doing—the joy had been taken away, the opportunity for creativity and collaboration and growth were long gone. Without my voice and my creativity, I feel like a shell of a person. And it all felt fake. I began doing and acting what/how I knew was expected of me merely to get through the day and collect a paycheck. They had stopped investing in me long ago. And it was time I stopped investing in them. I truly didn’t understand how we got to that place. But I knew there wasn’t anything I could do to change it. And I would never again find joy in that place.
I’m not sure that I’ll ever go back to worshipping in a church. I’m not sure that’s how I want to find community. I don’t know that I trust the aspects of organized religion that have repeatedly burned me. Let me be clear, I allowed myself to stay in an unhealthy (for me) environment for too long and that colored my experience. I blame myself for not getting out sooner, for not having the guts to leap. I’m not pointing the finger at anyone else. But I feel secure in knowing I can connected with the divine in my own way. I can still continue in my own spiritual journey. I don’t need an intermediary. The things that are important to me (mission, community, etc) can still be richly a part of my life. I can make it so. Because I’ve been doing it for the last 15ish years.