For the next six weeks, we’ll be exploring the question, “How do we walk out our faith in the midst of pain, suffering, disappointment, and loneliness,” with a book club discussion on Thursdays about Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor. We’re starting today with the Introduction and Chapter 1. Join the conversation in the comments and on the closed Facebook page at Redemptions Beauty Book Club if you aren’t comfortable with sharing thoughts here. (And you can join at both places.)
I voted twice this week. Once on Monday. Once on Tuesday. Monday’s vote had nothing to do with a political election but the impact was greater for me.
My church took a vote and the outcome divided the people. I left my church the same day I started this new series. The irony is not lost on me.
When I was a child, I had two recurring dreams. In one of them, I am seated next to my mother who is driving the car. I look at her once and she is there. A second time and she vanishes, leaving me alone to drive a car as an adolescent. In the other dream, my mother and father swing me by my arms and legs in the backyard of my grandparent’s home, throw me up in the air, and I never come back down.
My parents divorced when I was three. My father remarried shortly after, while my mother raised me as a single parent, struggling with alcoholism and financial instability. Fear of abandonment plagued much of my life.
And that decision the church made on Monday, its why going to church lately feels like returning to my unstable childhood. It feels personal, even though I know it isn’t, just like my parents divorce.
Early memories of church sit between my grandparents on wooden pews inhaling the smell of the Old English my grandmother and I wiped on them with dust clothes the day before. At four-thirty mass on Saturday, the priest stands on the red carpet where my grandmother pushed vacuum tracks. Late afternoon sun pours through the stain glass windows captivating me, just like watching people filter into lines for communion.
And when my grandparents couldn’t drive two hours to pick me up to sleep over on the weekend, I climbed on the Baptist church bus with my friends. I wanted to go to church. Jesus was the only stable thing in my life. I counted on him every day to save me. I still do.
I don’t go to church because it is the right thing, the good thing, the social thing, or because I am a pastor’s wife. I go because I need to be in His presence, feel His peace, commune with the Saints, thank Him for breathe, hear His voice, remember my place is at His feet and hold on to the frayed end of hope.
Faith isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. Now I’m on the path that leads to the sheep tipped over and strewn on the hillsides of decision. Pulling them up one lamb at a time and following his footprints back home.
I’m more certain than ever, that He is with me.
- In the Introduction Taylor says, “I guess you could say that my losses have been chiefly in the area of faith, and specifically in the area of being certain who God is, what God wants of me, and what it means to be Christian in a world where religion often seems to do more harm than good.” Can you relate to this? What parts of your faith do you find the most confidence? What parts have become less certain?
- How does the place where you live impact your faith?