Ok guys, let’s talk about it- the elephant that has been in the room for months.
I have quit. I have quit church.
To be clear, I love Jesus and if I were asked to declare a religion I would have to say Christian.
However, I still quit.
It’s been a SAGA, me and church. I get motion sickness just going through it all in my mind.
I love church. I love so much about church. I love the community. I love a gathering of people who, for the most part, simply want to love others and lift them up. I love the service to others. I love the taking time out to connect to something bigger and grander than my own day to day problems. I love the tradition. I love the power of faith. I love it.
I love the people church has brought into my life. In fact, I love them so much that I felt the guilt and pain of letting them down heavily on my heart as I was deciding to step away.
So how did I get here?
Three years ago I made a decision that shocked everyone who knew me, including myself, and I became a Mormon. I had good, valid, faith filled reasons for making that choice and it is not a choice I regret. I love A LOT about the Mormon tradition and church. The LDS faith is beautiful in so many ways.
It is also hard in so many ways.
From the beginning there were two main points of contention for me. The church’s stance on homosexuality and the fact that to reach the highest levels of glory in heaven (per LDS teachings) my husband HAD to become a member and do all the things that required. My faith was not enough on my own.
The things I loved about the church were so great that I repeatedly (often daily) pushed the parts I couldn’t swallow away. Then logistics came into play.
I am a mom to many tiny humans, and they each have a lot going on. The structure and organization that I love about the LDS church just doesn’t work for my kiddos. They do not fit into boxes, their developmental stages can’t be tied to their ages. Their special needs make three hour church service a challenge on our best days. This may have been a surmountable problem if – anyone else close to me was a member and could help me wrangling kids for three hours on Sunday, or if I didn’t already have those nagging issues with the entire establishment. I tried, and tried, and tried and was always left with the feeling that there was not room for my family and that we would never be neat and tidy enough to fit into the boxes.
When we moved back to GR, these issues just got bigger. So, I tried returning to one of my favorite churches, the church where I originally found and connected with God.
It is a very large and eclectic bible church that offers amazing things like a special needs ministry. There was even a sensory room for my kiddos who needed it during Sunday school. Tyler was more comfortable going and it was a more relaxing environment.
It’s a huge place, congregants by the thousands, and is therefore hard to feel a sense of community. When I attended as a member in the past and felt the connection I had time to be actively involved in many different groups and ministries to find my own little tribe among the masses. I don’t have that time now. Getting my whole family there on Sunday morning takes Herculean effort- I have none left over.
Then there was a shift in leadership and on multiple occasions we would arrive at church to find the sensory room closed with no notice. Which means at least half my family has to leave. After the immense effort to get us there, and then not having space we had gotten used to and comfortable with for our kiddos was not ok.
To me church became a perfect storm of effort and stress. I felt like the Andrea Gail trying every week to mount the rogue wave barreling towards me. Some weeks I made it, some weeks I didn’t. The thing about the Andrea Gail (if you are familiar with the story) is that it didn’t have to be there, fighting against the storm. It could have waited for the storm to pass before heading for the harbor.
Suddenly one day I asked myself why I was fighting so hard. I believe in a God that loves me and loves my kids and that love is not conditional. It is not dependent on me fighting my way through chaos and insanity to drag us to a particular building on a particular day. My God sees how hard I am working. He sees my faith and devotion to my family. He sees the struggles my kids are facing and all we are doing to overcome them. He sees it all and he loves us through it all.
If that is my truth than why am I torturing myself? I won’t lie, that question took me a minute. I can come up with a list of reasons why we should be at church every week. I can come up with a long litany of shoulds and guilt and self flagellation on the subject.
When most of my shoulds were stripped away, the people pleaser in me was still struggling. I know me openly stepping back from even trying to get to church would hurt and worry people I care deeply about. People in the LDS tradition and people in mainstream Christian traditions. It hurts me deeply to feel as if I am disappointing people I admire and love, and this aspect of my personality made this decision all the harder.
However, this is my journey to walk and my short life on this planet to live. I would not want my children to ever live their lives in a way that felt incongruous to who they are as a person. I also don’t want to model for my children that who they are is a decision they get to make once in life. Who we are is always changing and that is one of the most beautiful parts of life- as long as we can go with it and grow into new stages of life instead of clinging to old ideas of who we are.
I am actively not putting walls around this stage of life. I do not know when or if or how I will return to going to church. I am just letting myself be, as I am, and that person is growing every day. Tomorrow is a new day, a new dawn, and a new me.