It Is Finished…
Well, it’s done. Yesterday around 11:30am EST I stepped across a threshold that I will never cross the same way again. Following worship I sat in the narthex chatting with some of the youth and other members of the congregation about the typical things one does when engaging in the small talk of post-service socialization. We talked of the weather and illnesses going around. I listened as one of the youth was bemoaning her relationship with her mother while another simply sat and tried, unsuccessfully, to annoy me. It was, for the most part, an average Sunday morning. Save for one thing: it was my last as a United Methodist.
There was no announcement. I’m not sure anyone really knew aside from Beth and one of the youth who had asked me about it a couple of weeks ago. Most people won’t even realize that I’m gone for a couple of weeks, at least. Because work and other involvements take me away from church every so often, it won’t be unusual for the other members of the congregation when they don’t see me. Beth and I were trying to figure out how long it would take before anyone asked where I was. My guess is that it won’t be until probably the second week of August.
I had mixed feelings yesterday. As right as I feel my decision was I certainly am not heartless or totally unfeeling with my leaving. It was sad. And there are people and elements that I will miss greatly. There is a sense of loss for me because I have been so tied in to the identity of being a UM for so long that, on some level, I’m giving up a part of who I am. I don’t mean that I’m no longer being true to myself or that I’m leaving behind some sense of my identity, it’s just that a large part of my development through the years has taken place with some association or another with the UMC. I acknowledge those connections, celebrate what they’ve given me, regard them highly in memory, but I now move on.
One of the things Beth preached on yesterday was the parables of the pearl and the treasure. I believe she was quoting another source when she said something along the lines of: if you’ve sold all that you have in order to buy the pearl (or the plot of land where the treasure is) and “if you can turn back, if you can walk away from the field, if you can walk away from the pearl, then what you’ve found isn’t the Kingdom.” Over the course of my discernment I came to realize that what I’ve been presented with, and have been told is the pearl, has actually been something I found that I can walk away from. The sermon spoke of not being able to help yourself when you find the pearl. It is just so wonderful in all respects that you just have to have it. When it comes to the UMC I see that I have given all that I am to serving for so long (I’ve sold all my possessions, if you will) in order to have the pearl, and yet I don’t find it to be as beautiful or as priceless as I once thought. I know that’s not exactly what she meant in her sermon, but that’s what it said to me. I want to feel like I can’t help myself but to give all that I am to something because I know that it is real, that it is truth.
I’ve already gotten some feedback from other UMs that I’ve run into over the past week who have somehow heard of my decision to leave. Many have been supportive, some have been proud of my courage to follow my heart, and some have been sure to stress that “the door is always open, so they say” in case I ever change my mind. I find it interesting that people who know me and know that I am a thoughtful person who doesn’t make major decisions lightly – let alone simple decisions, if you’ve ever been shopping with me you know how unlikely it is for me to be impulsive – almost seem to feel that I am mistaken, that I haven’t really thought this whole thing through. At least, that’s the impression I get. ‘There must be something more going on,’ almost as though I’ve somehow let someone else influence me into making such a large personal change. While faith is tied in with community in many ways, it is also a very personal thing. So personal, in fact, that while I can be informed by others, my faith is still MY faith and no one can tell me what to believe.
What does next Sunday bring? To be honest, I don’t know. On the one hand I’m excited to start looking for my next spiritual home. On the other, I kind of just want to take the day off and rest.