A Time for Rest, A Time for Reflection, A Time for Courage
Even though it’s been two weeks since I last attended a worship service and had an affiliation with a particular denomination, I have not yet begun to formally look for a new faith community for myself. I’ve done some online searching and some reading of various pieces of literature but I haven’t yet taken that next step of visiting any congregations. Part of me feels that due to my level of involvement and my somewhat high profile in this conference of the UMC I need to take some time to decompress. I think, too, that it gives me a chance to reflect on this new religious situation that I am in without the affiliation that used to direct my previous identity. There is a case to be made, also, that the summer is a time when services are a little more atypical, guest speakers and musicians are not uncommon, and small groups tend to break. So, visiting for the first time now wouldn’t present me with the clearest of pictures. And thus I wait.
One of the other things that makes me take some time is so my choice for someplace new isn’t so much a reaction to the UMC as much as it is a progression of my beliefs. When I changed my major early in my freshman year from astrophysics to religion, my dad was concerned that I may have been running away from something because it was hard rather than toward something that I truly wanted. On one level I was running away, not just because it was hard, but because I realized I was good at it but I didn’t enjoy it. But on another level I was running toward religion because it was then that I began a more formal search for God. I feel that way now too. It would be easy for my withdrawl to be seen as a reaction to the direction the UMC is heading or as a reaction to some of the toxic and antagonistic qualities of it. However, I see it more as running towards a more faithful expression of my beliefs and living into a more honest version of myself.
I am in a period of transition – yes, of my own choosing – which does, in fact, bring along with it a certain amount of anxiety for me. I don’t feel that I am a courageous person; rather, I see myself as being fairly timid and indecisive in a lot of areas. I constantly analyze things to make sure I choose what is best and often second guess myself. My major life decisions of late are no exception. While I fully feel that my leaving the UMC was the best decision for me – that’s why I struggled so long before leaving – I find myself continuing to weigh the pros and cons of the decision. The pros always win out without fail but I can never ignore the cons: dealing with all the questions, anxiety in business relationships, letting go of that sense of community that I am always looking for and living with the loneliness that follows, etc. The same goes for moving. My new place is so much better but the cons slip into my mind: longer commute, cost of gas, starting over in a new area, being farther away from my family and the familiar. But in the end, I find that I have something that I rarely feel as though I have: confindence in myself.
It takes more courage than I think I have to leave what I knew behind and step into the unknown and the uncertain, carrying the fear and doubt and loneliness that I do. I struggle a lot with loneliness. I struggle with the contradictions within myself: the desire for companionship and the comfort of being just me; the fear of being solitary and the fear of being a new member of a group. And the list goes on. I have heard from a number of people how much they support me and feel like I’m being courageous. It strengthens me to hear that but at the same time I find it hard to believe because I feel so empty and afraid. I am confident that I did what was right for myself and I know that it took courage to do it but my nerves are kicking in for what comes next. I’ve never liked being “the new kid” and it seems like everything in my life is going to be so new. It’s exciting, it’s great, I’m full of hope, and I’m scared to death.
With risk comes opportunity, with adventure comes discovery. I have taken the risk of doing a new thing for myself and have stepped out on this strange new adventure. I don’t know what what will come or how it will be but I have to walk on with faith that the situations I face will build me up and the opportunities I find will fill me so that as I go I may discover who I am and who I am to be.