So, I turned fifty in June. I had to walk away from the blog for a bit (except for the post on July 4th) because there were too many other things that required my attention, and while a blog post may read easily, it definitely isn’t quick and easy to write. A lot has happened in the past couple of months, not the least of which was leaving the church that I’ve been a member of since my divorce in 2003. I have gone back to the one I belonged to before, the church my daughters grew up in. It was not an easy decision, but I believe it’s the right one for this time and this season. I have thought long and hard about it over the last year, because I wanted to be absolutely sure that I’m not just running away.
Because sometimes there is a fine line between leaving and running away.
I am well aware that I am doing a bit of both, but I do believe that this is the assignment God has called me to for this season. People keep asking if I’m “happier there” but to me, that’s irrelevant. It’s the wrong question, the right one being: is this where I’m supposed to be? As Christians, I believe we should go where we’re called, and where we’re needed. We don’t come and go because we like the worship, or we like the people, or all of the perks and amenities offered as a result of membership. The church is not a club, and the building is not a clubhouse. I wasn’t ‘unhappy’ at the other church; the only problem I ever had wasn’t with the church itself, it was the occasional breach of confidentiality by my pastoral counselor, who also attends that church. If it weren’t for that, and her frequent bouts of unchecked anger, I would have been quite happy there. Time and again, she made it abundantly clear that I was neither welcomed, nor wanted.
Sometimes the giants in the land are the people we would least expect.
I keep forgetting, now that I’m back, that for everyone else, more than ten years have passed. For me, it’s just been one very long, very bad year. I find that I have to keep making small mental adjustments as people are talking to me. They have no idea what I’ve been through since I left, and for the most part, they don’t need to. But I keep wondering, what in the world happened to my life while I was in therapy? Where did my life go?
I feel like I just woke up, and have discovered that I’m not who I was when I left. Time will tell if this is a good thing, or a bad thing. (Or, more likely, maybe I wasn’t who I really am while I was there.)
I am now in the process of reassembling my life, very carefully and very slowly, one piece, one person at a time. It’s like sifting and sorting through the remains of a disaster, trying to find what’s worth salvaging, and what needs to be repaired or replaced. I have long thought that the divorce hit me like a plane hitting one of the towers on 911, but what happened after the divorce-what happened in the end, with my counselor-was like having a tsunami hit in the exact same location, while everything in my life was still destroyed by the first crisis, and the air was still thick with smoke and falling debris. And now, the waves; of grief, regret, and shame, from having ever trusted anyone so completely and so stupidly.
I have been reading Homer since early spring, and feel somewhat akin to Odysseus, who, having experienced multitudinous adventures, returned home ten years after the Trojan War, only to find that nothing was as it was when he left. I also had a Mentor on my journey, but instead of pointing the way home, she directed me away from home, as is common in long-term therapy. My life became smaller and smaller, until there was almost nothing left. I lost myself.
Or like Dickens’ Miss Pross, who, after the last fatal scene with the seething Madame Defarge, climbed into Jerry Crunchers’ carriage, having been rendered completely, permanently, deaf in the struggle of her life.
“I feel,” said Miss Pross, “as if there had been a flash and a crash, and that crash was the last thing I should ever hear in this life.”
All I’ve had to go by for the last four years is a pillar and a cloud; the Word of God and the inward leading of the Holy Spirit. But that’s pretty much it.
“I can hear,” said Miss Pross, seeing that he spoke to her, “nothing. O, my good man, there was first a great crash, and then a great stillness, and that stillness seems to be fixed and unchangeable, never to be broken any more as long as my life lasts.” *
If I let myself think of all that I’ve lost: over twenty thousand dollars to my pastoral counselor, all for nothing, in the end; time with my daughters, my family, and my friends; my health, home, jobs, graduate school; l get bogged down in sorrow, and can’t function. The memories I don’t have are the ones I didn’t make, because life happened while I was in counseling, and I feel like I missed it all. Everyone else kept living; I didn’t. My life ended the day my counseling did, in a fit of rage and anger. (Hers.) So, the best thing to do seems to be to try not to think about all of it, and distract myself by working hard and keeping busy. And yes, leaving my church is part of that.
Let the healing begin.
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)
* A Tale of Two Cities