I grew up as a pastors kid. I often say that I was raised in the church and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I loved my country church, I loved the people, the potlucks and feeling like I had special access to the place that no other kid had. I volunteered as soon as I was old enough and tried my hand at most of the ministry areas so I could confirm my area of giftedness, like a good Christian leader in training does. As a teen I went to all the leadership camps, sat on the student leadership team in my youth group and highlighted every youth event in my school planner so I could count down the days until I’d be with my people again. Church was my safe place, I belonged there and so as I entered adulthood, of course I wanted to be in church ministry, it was what I knew and the place of safety.
As an adult youth pastor, I was lucky to find a church that welcomed me and treated me so well. In that church I became ordained, I found friendship and got to know some of the most wonderful students. Again, it was my safe place. After 4 years there, I felt led to move into a new position that took me away from my family and all that I knew and loved.
I haven’t spoken often of this past year and unless you have asked me about it over a latte or in my living room, you wouldn’t have likely heard me talk much about it.
It’s because over the year I lost my safe place. I don’t want to slander anyone because I did meet some wonderful people along the way, which my heart is very thankful for but I’ve always been a believer that there is power and healing when people are willing to be vulnerable with one another.
In a short time, I saw another side of the church. It wasn’t the safe place I had come to know. I became afraid to enter through the doors, afraid of what others would say to me while I was there, I couldn’t sleep, I put on weight and ate my feelings and I didn’t want to leave my apartment. I lost myself.
By the grace of God, I was rescued from that situation. But I can distinctly remember walking through the airport doors in Toronto after my flight home and seeing my parents and collapsing into a ball of tears. I left at the beginning of the year hopeful and I came home broken.
I’ve never been broken like that before. The kind of broken where you have nothing left, where you don’t know what you think or believe anymore and where all you want to do is sleep because for the first time in a long time you feel safe.
This year has been about healing for me. And since I broke my ankle in October and had to have surgery, this year has been about both physical healing as well as inner healing. And the biggest thing I’ve learned is that healing hurts. It’s not easy or painless, it isn’t quick and you can’t just get over it. It comes out of you slowly, over time and it is exhausting.
I decided to take a break from church to give myself time to heal, to take a break from the hypocrisy I had witnessed, and because I was tired of the church culture.
I needed time to rest and breathe.
And here I sit, with more time to myself, more time to rest and ponder and reflect. I often wonder why I felt led to move across the country and I’m not sure I will ever know. But for those of you who feel like you are on the outskirts of faith, for those of you who have been wounded by the church, the place that was supposed to welcome you in and be your safe place, for those that don’t know where to fit on the spiritual scale anymore, I see you. And for those that think this is Jesus, it’s not. Jesus is for you. He is patient as you wander, as you try to hold onto hope, as you cling to healing. Don’t give up, you are not alone. Your questions and your hurts are real and it’s ok. I’ve become convinced amidst all of the crap, Jesus is still there with me, holding onto me even when I’ve let go.
One of my favourite lines from the show Downton Abbey is when Carson says to Mrs. Hughes “life alters us”. Isn’t this the truth?