It’s a death without a funeral.*
There’s been a recent death in my life. It’s not a person or a pet, but a church. I have said goodbye to my old church. This move, orchestrated by God, has caused a loss of community, a loss of purpose, a sense of being displaced, and a sense of identity loss.
Who am I now and where do I belong? It’s like looking to the sky to see God as a cloud leading me somewhere new and on the darkest of nights trusting His pillar of fire to watch over me.
It’s moving on.
A final goodbye.
Don’t look back.
Just keep moving forward.
Leaving this church is one of the most painful experiences of my life. I came in those doors so wounded and torn up by the world after not going to church for seven years. I experienced healing, was challenged in my faith, and I grew. I became strong.
And because of it, I’m now strong enough to leave.
God is telling me that it is time to move on. And like Abraham, like Moses, like so many who have gone before, I must follow where my God has called me. Whatever the reasons for leaving a church—any church—the main reason should and must always be a calling from God.
I wasn’t sure I should blog about this, but as I googled “leaving a church” I didn’t find any helpful information. I didn’t find people grieving the loss. I simply found articles with bullet points on knowing when to leave and when to stay.
It goes so far beyond a bullet point.
We want to fancy it up with church talk. We want to wrap it up in a pretty bow, like because God called us to do it means it isn’t hard. Because God called us to do it, we didn’t scream our hearts out on the living room floor every day for a week. We pretend leaving our ministries doesn’t rip us all apart. We wear these “holy masks” and say everything is just fine.
But everything is not fine. Goodbyes are hard, particularly this one because, for me, it’s a tearing away. I feel like I’m losing a piece of myself. I know the reasons God is moving me, yet I feel like some sort of refugee. I’m bewildered, don’t know how to fit into the new mold of a new church, and I’m so lost and lonely.
I know I’ll be OK. I know I’m grieving right now, but just as the dying leaves fall from the trees only to bud in the spring, so will I. There’s just a long winter of the soul ahead—a time to rest, reflect, and snuggle up with God. Sometimes a winter has to come to force us to look at the One who truly gives life. I trust Him to provide what I need in this transition.
I tell myself the truth. Day after day. And it hurts less and I haven’t cried in a few days now. I’m finding sustenance and joy in God, almost like I had to become wounded like this to feel Him again. Almost like my heart had to split wide open with this wound to start beating again.
To quote C.S. Lewis, “There are far better things ahead than what I leave behind.” I am choosing to run towards the better things ahead.
And when I need to, I bow my head in grief and scream out to God to ease my pain. I struggle as I grieve this death, this death without a funeral.
This is my funeral, my final goodbye, my laying to rest. It’s in these words I find peace and on my blog I place a gravestone. I build an altar here, dedicate it to God, and remember this holy moment.
*I borrowed the title “Death Without A Funeral” from singer/songwriter Jason Gray. The song can be found on his latest release, Where the Light Gets In. You can watch a video where Jason talks about “Death Without a Funeral” here or listen to the song itself here.