I recently decided to take a break from church. Maybe it is more accurate to say that I decided to take a break from pretending I go to church. I haven’t been to a service since January and I probably only went a handful of times in 2016. I was still clinging to this facade that I go to church. I had this ‘loyal soldier’ attitude when it came to church. It was hard to admit I wasn’t part of it any longer. Twenty-five years as a ‘pastor’s wife’ in an evangelical church will do that to you.
I’ve been surprised at how vibrant my faith continues to be. I had been led to believe that if I wasn’t part of a local church that I would be on a slippery slope to self-destruction. Instead, I’ve been quietly pursuing my faith in a way that has been quite life-giving. I’ve worked with a spiritual director for the past four years, spend time in nature, journal, pray, and have a community of friends who are open to talk about spiritual things. It has felt healthy and grounded.
This week I read a book that has given words to the journey I have been on in the past five to seven years. Bitten by a Camel: Leaving Church, Finding God by Kent Dobson is a book that explores many of the questions I have had to work through in my Faith Story.
I’ve been planning to write more about my journey because I haven’t read many stories written by people in my generation (I’m in my late 50’s) who were once completely committed to the evangelical church and began to question some of the theology and practices later in life. It can be quite lonely and alienating. People ask, “Are you still a Christian?” and your answer feels like you are evading the question. Mostly because you aren’t sure if what they mean by Christian is the same thing you mean by Christian.
I discovered when I picked at one thread, the whole thing unravelled. So, for a long time I kept up the pretense of going to church. It made everyone more comfortable. Until recently when I decided the truth would set me free. And I wanted to be truthful about where I really was in my journey.
It seems accepted that post-modern millennials would walk away from the church, deconstruct their faith and push theological boundaries. But not a woman my age. There are very few voices over 50 asking these questions. No one like Rob Bell, Pete Rollins, or Rachel Held Evans. Our leaders were people like Bill Gothard, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, Kay Arthur or Henry Blackby. We were given the answers and we accepted them. We did it for the team. We didn’t question the role of women, the existence of hell or the infallibility of scripture.
I’ve discovered books have been a strong ally on this journey. I’m slowly discovering voices like Barbara Brown-Taylor, Diana Butler-Bass and Sue Monk Kidd. I’m grateful for each once. And today, especially to Kent Dobson for sharing his story. I see my life reflected in so much of his experience and I feel hopeful as I continue this re-story-ation of my soul that I am not alone.