The journey after leaving the meetings

Recently I finished reading “Leaving Church” by Barbara Brown Taylor and the last few chapters are about the years after she left the priesthood that she was involved in for 20 some years.  Much of her experience after leaving echo mine.  Not just my experience of leaving the Work (ministry) but even more so after leaving the fellowship I was raised in.  I thought perhaps they may also resonate with some of my readers who have recently left the meetings as well.

She writes about the seminary.  What that translated to me in my experience is the Work or ministry but it could also just mean the structure of the meeting group as a whole.

The clear message was that God did not live at the seminary.  God lived in the world.  The seminary existed so that people had a place to try and make sense of their experience in the world, as well as a community to support them while they did.”

I have written this before, but one of my greatest joys since leaving the meeting group is being allowed to see God in newer, bigger ways.  That process just keeps happening.  I have been praying the last couple of weeks that He would show me Himself in ways I have never imagined before.  Not only is He everywhere, but He is still invested everywhere.  The world is so broken now and I find myself wondering if God is still here or has He turned His back on us.  But I know He is still here.  In all this darkness, confusion and mess, above it all, He is here.  Now.  He is still in control.  He has not been chased away by the Darkness; His Light still prevails. I just need to look for Him in places I haven’t before.

I have since sensed Him in the morning air, in the wind, in the presence of trees, in the sky, in rivers as never before.  I live in the City so getting out in nature is not often possible but I do have access to the above things often and feeling Him so near in those places is amazing.  And comforting.  I suddenly do not feel alone but protected.  There is a contemporary Christian song that talks about Him being the very air we breathe.

When Barbara wrote about God living in the world and not just the safety of the seminary, I think anyone with an involvement in the meetings will know why that sentence meant something to me.  We were taught that the world was evil, all of it basically, and the last thing we wanted to do was be in it anymore than we had to.  Worshiping God in the world or even in nature was thought of as “odd” and it made most uncomfortable.  Even acknowledging God in the wind or a breeze on your face or the coolness of the morning air would have been “weird”.

But, like she also writes, the meetings had a definite purpose.  It was our safe haven.  It was our retreat until it no longer was.  Until we needed something different, something newer, something bigger.

The author writes something else profound, “I may have left the house, but I not left the relationship.”  Many assume when you leave the meeting group that you have left God as well because, in their minds, those two are synonymous.  They aren’t at all.  Oh, I wish those still in the meetings could understand and accept that of those of us who are still very much in touch with God but just not involved in the group anymore.

Taylor also writes another interesting thought regarding church:

“What if people were invited to come tell what they already know of God instead of to learn what they are supposed to believe?  What if they were blessed for what they are doing in the world instead of chastened for not doing more at church?  What if the church’s job were to move people out of the door instead of trying to keep them in, by convincing them that God needed them more in the world than in the church?”

I want to be a part of a church like that.

Which brings me to an admittance I haven’t made before on the blog.  I don’t attend church anymore.  I just can’t bring myself to go.  It’s not that there was anything wrong with any of it but it just wasn’t what I needed anymore.  I’m just not the same person as I was a few years ago.  This was made so apparent to me recently when I ran into a gal that was in numerous Bible studies I facilitated at the church I used to attend.  She was all excited about the new study she had just begun after missing a few years of it, and as I listened to her, all I felt was glad for her but glad it wasn’t me.  The older I get I seem to just want to be alone on Sunday morning worshiping Jesus; not with a crowd, not even a small one.  The only church I would gladly attend would be with any of my girlfriends who are former meeting gals themselves.  I would feel heard and understood there as well as supported and it would be pure joy to be there for them in that capacity as well.

One more quote from “Leaving Church“.

“I have learned to prize holy ignorance more highly than religious certainty and to seek companions who have arrived at the same place.  We are a motley crew, distinguished not only by our inability to explain ourselves to those who are more certain of their beliefs than we are but in many cases by our distance from the centers of our faith communities as well. Like campers who have bonded over cook fires far from home, we remain grateful for the provisions that we have brought with us from those cupboards, but we also find them more delicious when we share them with one another under the stars.  This wilderness experience sets up a real dilemma for some of us, since we know how much we owe to the traditions that shaped us.  We would not be who we are without them, and we continue to draw real sustenance from them, but in so far as those same traditions discourage us from being with one another, we cannot go home again.  In one way or another, every one of us has gotten the message that God made us different that we might know one another, and that how we treat one another is the best expression of our belief.”

I really like this and it is so true regarding where I am right now.  The bond I have with my friends who have also left the meetings is real, rich, deep and strong.  Leaving the group affects each of us at profound levels and it takes years to process everything.   I prefer small groups to large ones, good conversation are my kind of party.  Church is sharing where we are now with God and where He is with us rather than churchy phrases and sermons.  I need connections with people I trust and I am blessed to have several friends who fall into that category.  I see God in them and I want to learn from them as well as just love them and support them.

Please know that these thoughts are just about where I am now and where I’ve come from.  They are my journey; not what I think yours should be.  I have not forsaken the assembly of other believers; I just do not get to be in that kind of assembly very often.  But when I do, it is precious to me.  Absolutely precious.

Joy equals Fun? Can it be?

I remember hearing workers speak about joy now and then and I’m sure I spoke about it myself as a worker.  What I remember joy being described as was something experienced deep within; it was a private feeling between yourself and God.  Others could perhaps sense you had it but it wasn’t really talked about much BECAUSE too much joy meant you weren’t taking God seriously enough!  It was not OK to be too happy. Honest!  Serving God was meant to be a life of sacrifice above all. Oh my.

I also remember early on in my new Bible studies outside of meetings hearing about having fun and about God having a sense of humor.  Gasp.  It almost sounded sacrilegious and it made me very uncomfortable.  But people were seeing God everywhere and He was fun and life could be fun and not be sinful.  This was a side to God I knew very little about and it took me a long while to even want to explore that part of Him because I didn’t think it was OK to do so.  To discover that walking through my day with God didn’t always have to be heavy and dead serious but instead, that life was meant to be enjoyed and light and carefree at times. What a delight and a relief!

I never thought about what it meant to delight myself in the Lord other than when I was praying or meditating.  Finding out I could delight myself in Him by watching my puppy play or seeing a gorgeous rainbow or smelling the morning air was all a part of finding out that God was so much bigger and so much better than I had ever given Him credit to be.  Of course He wants us to delight in Him and in His creation!  Why on earth wouldn’t he? (Pun intended)

Which brings me to another subject of having fun with God that I am so excited about.

There is a new hobby available that I am loving.  It is adult coloring books and for me, it has meant two new beautiful Bibles (one is KJV and the other is NLT) with hundreds of illustrations each that are drawn in ready to be colored in.  This Inspire Bible is the NLT one

and it is available on Amazon.  The other one, My Creative Bible is also available on Amazon.

Here is a sample page from this Bible.  Not only is there the picture to color but there is also a wide journaling space on the opposite page.  I would have loved having a Bible like this when I was in the group.

I have to share with you what was written on the box the Inspire Bible came in.  “The Bible is God’s inspired Word and it is a powerful tool that God uses to speak to us….this Bible offers space for reflections and creative art journaling in the two-inch wide ruled margins. Leave traces of your faith scattered throughout your Bible for a treasure that ill inspire you and everyone around you.”

Now, everything in my old professing brain would have again screamed that the very idea of coloring in a Bible is WRONG WRONG and very disrespectful.  But I do not feel that way now at all and here is why.

When I am coloring, I might be thinking about the Scripture I am working on and sometimes that portion of Scripture will come alive as never before.  I will think about it in a new way perhaps or ponder deeper about what it might mean to me today. The place I get to inside is just like athletes feel when they get in the zone and the endorphin’s kick in. Another reason I know this is not “wrong” is the peace and rest I feel while I’m working on a page.  I love the feeling and I know God loves it when I am at peace and resting in Him. Also, several months ago I had a very definite awareness that I needed something creative to do in my quiet time because it brings me such joy and rest of mind.

When I am done with a page, or a dozen, I will have a pretty and fun Bible.  I have lots of Bibles now contrary to when I only had one; the black leather very expensive Bible we got from England.

Now, there is one more layer to this that I am so excited about and that is for the young kids who still go to meetings.  When I was a kid I remember going off to convention with a bag with new coloring books, a new notebook, pens, pencils, crayons,  my very own Bible and hymnbook and lots of candy!!  Well, they now make Bible coloring books for kids!  They are many different kinds also available on Amazon.  How FUN would it be to be coloring Bible stories as you sit in meetings at convention!  I can bet that if kids had those nowadays, by the time they were through with a page, they would have that verse memorized and a visual in their minds to go along with the verse.

Conventions begin in California in May in the US and I hope some parents are brave enough to get some of these for their kids.  If my nieces and nephews were still little, I would be sure and get them a bunch.

I don’t know…I just think something like that would make convention even more fun for kids and yes, convention was fun but this would just be something new to do and have.

These are just some of my rambling thoughts about how convention could be so much better if only new ideas were allowed in.  If only.

 

Whose idea was this anyway?

I was thinking again the other day about the question I believe was from God that I heard in my thoughts years ago in Great Falls, Montana one Saturday evening as I was preparing for two meetings the next day.  (I know I have mentioned this before on this blog but the issue was good for me to think about again) The question was: “Darla, would you be willing to be an ordinary person?”  I was struggling at that point in my life to stay in the ministry for several reasons, so I felt this question had to do with my possible leaving.

I had never entertained the thought before the other day, that when God asked me this question He was in essence saying that I was not ordinary but extraordinary!  Ha!  I know now that in God’s eyes, I have always been extraordinary, NOT because of who I am, but because of what He has done on my behalf and because I belong to Him, so that question had to do with others view of me, not God’s.

In the meeting/ministry culture, I must have been extraordinary.  Hmmmm.  (Well, I’m not boasting here, because most of the workers are considered this way by the laity.)  At the time, I was a senior worker, in my prime really, and it was shortly after this question (within a couple of years) I left the ministry work for good.

I’m reading a book called, “Leaving Church” by Barbara Brown Taylor and it’s her story of how she left the priesthood in the church she served in and how that came about.  The age old question came to my mind when I was in the throes of this as well; was this my idea or God’s idea for me to leave?  Barbara writes,

“The effort to untangle the human words from the divine seems not only futile to me but also unnecessary, since God works with what is.  God uses whatever is usable in a life, both to speak and to act, and those who insist on fireworks in the sky may miss the electricity that sparks the human heart.”  

I find this so comforting and freeing.  God works with what is.  Nothing comes as a surprise to Him.  It helps me finally understand another thought from Him during those days. “Darla, there is no right or wrong in this”.  My leaving the ministry was not wrong in His sight, but it was what it was.  Period. And He worked with it.  The group did not understand but He did.  When I left the group altogether, there was no right or wrong in that decision either.  It was what it was.  And He worked with this too.  The group condemned me but He did not.  I believe this with all my heart.

By leaving the ministry, my place of ‘fame’ and glory, I immediately fell from grace within the group.  And I began to be an ordinary person.  Had I stayed in the group but just left the ministry, in time I would have carved out some sort of ‘place’ for myself within the fellowship but I would have forever and always been introduced within the group as, “Hello, this is Darla DenHerder, she used to be in the Work…..”  Yes, if I had stayed in the group after leaving the ministry, I would have been an ordinary person in that circle, but it would have been very hard for me; almost unbearable. The constant shame (because I wouldn’t have known it could be otherwise), would have crushed me. The judgment of the group, the pity, the tsk tsking but mostly just having to be around the workers all the time would have been like salt in the wound. Those couple of years when I did go to convention after I left the Work were awful and awkward. Painful. Even though, at the same time, I was LOVING my freedom on all levels. If I had married, it may have been easier.  Maybe all along I somehow knew I would have to leave the group entirely after leaving the ministry in order to find peace and rest of mind and spirit.

God didn’t ask me that day if I’d be willing for an ordinary life
but to be an ordinary person.

I am an ordinary person now, but I don’t have an ordinary life.  I have few of the labels that attach themselves to ordinary lives but I have struggled unnecessarily through the years because I forgot what God really said.  Neither has been easy (the ordinary life and being an ordinary person) but each has had its rewards as well as its pain.  They are hard to separate; yet I found it helpful today to do just that for a bit and see how each felt and remember how each was.  Being an ordinary person has been easier in the long run than the ordinary life.  I used to be an extrovert but am now much more of an introvert so being an ordinary person much more suits me now.

Taylor also wrote,

“I began to do what every full-time parish minister should probably do on a regular basis, or at least those who worry about losing their jobs more than they worry about losing their own souls.  I began thinking about what else I could do for a living.  The alternatives I came up with all involved significant loss of status.”

The ordinary life as well as the ordinary person were involved.

She quotes Walter Brueggeman, a scholar of the Hebrew Bible:

“The world for which you have been so carefully prepared is being taken away from you by the grace of God.”

She said as she prepared to literally walk away from her church that she paused “to breathe the crisp air of her accomplishments”  but she kept going because it meant she was acknowledging;

“something else she knew was true. While my friends were becoming bishops and deans of cathedrals, I was falling off the ladder of success… by leaving church I was about to leave everything I knew how to do and be.  I had no way of knowing whether my choice would turn out to be a good one, and by the time I discovered that answer there would be no going back. “

She said she was abandoning,

“everything she knew for something I could only trust: that God was in this loss, which was not robbery but relinquishment.”  

She told of hearing a flock of geese overhead at that time and when they were gone, “the words formed in the empty air:  Take me with you!”  The night after her farewell party was over and she stepped into the night, she heard the familiar honking over her head.  She said,

“I took their presence as a blessing. I, too, was on the move without a map. Listening to the goose voices disappearing in the dark, I sensed that God did not judge my strong urge to fly.”

For me, He did not judge my strong urge for something more, something deeper, something more real.  He did not judge my strong need of personal space.  That was 100% contrary to the teachings of the group but there is no condemnation in Christ. Yes, I experienced a significant loss of status, but by the grace of God, it was taken away.  My identity is no longer based on what I have done or do, but who I am in Christ even more so than who I am in this world.  In this world, I am a sister, an aunt, a friend, a co-worker and a neighbor.  In Christ I am beloved, chosen, loved unconditionally, redeemed (a HUGE thing for me), daughter of a king, a sister in Christ, and more.

I realized this morning I never actually answered God when He asked me this question but rather I felt a “well maybe” kind of feeling.  But I began to consciously and unconsciously move towards being able to answer yes to the question from that time forward. What if I had said, “No”?  Could I have said no because I wanted and needed to stay in that place of security, honor and place? I think I could have said no and stayed but only for a few more years max.  I was needing space and wings too badly.  I never wanted an ordinary life before then; in fact I had feared that very thing from a young age. I thought the ordinary life my family and a lot of my friends had was boring, simple, not enough.  Was God bringing me back to that place to humble me and show me how horribly wrong I had been about their lives?  Quite possibly.  I have been terribly judgmental in my life about so many things and by bringing me back full circle, over and over again, I have seen things from the other side and realized how wrong I had been.

So, I truly believe this decision to be an ordinary person, costly though it has been, was God’s mercy in changing who I was from the inside out by taking away all the props, all the smoke and mirrors, all the illusions of greatness and whatever was necessary to get the focus off of me and on to Him.  It has been a crazy adventure for sure but it has not been boring.  He gave me strength to do the impossible.  And He is not done yet apparently.

 

 

Living in the shallows no more

James 4:2 says we don’t have because we don’t ask. There is a version that translates this by saying we have little because we ask little. It is such a simple yet profound verse. It came to my mind again recently as the result of reading more of Richard Rohr’s book “Falling Upward”.

One quote of his was this:

“It has been said that 90 percent of people seem to live 90 percent of their lives on cruise control, which is to be unconscious.”

Every since my late teens, I have had this adamant, very clear purpose and goal to my life; “not to become a shallow person; in thought, word, or deed”. I prided myself on achieving this goal for the most part until I read authors like Rohr who suddenly reveal to me that I often fall into the category of the unconscious, and especially of late. It was a real wake up call, for sure. My prayers have become small, my meditations are on the surface and I don’t like the result one bit and yet it has been like a magnetic pull to get out of that pattern.

For some reason, I am hesitant to go to the depths with God right now; at least not nearly as often as I used to. Anytime I get close to that place, I get so excited, but then I jump up and do something else with the energy instead of staying with God in the moment. I tell myself I will come back later in the day, but it seldom happens. But I found in order to write about the depths of God, I had to have a fresh exposure to that place, and for me, that takes time and quietness of mind. I had to look at my resistance to this process; a process I used to crave.

Rohr says:

“We dare not try to fill our souls and minds with numbing addictions, diversionary tactics, or mindless distractions. The shape of evil is much more superficiality and blindness than the usually listed ‘hot sins.’ God hides, and is found, precisely in the depths of everything, even and maybe especially in the deep fathoming of our failings and failures. Sin is to stay on the surface of even holy things, like Bible, sacrament, or church. If we go to the depths of anything, we will begin to knock upon something substantial, ‘real’ and with a timeless quality to it. We will move from the starter kit of ‘belief’ to an actual inner knowing.”

That last paragraph is worth reading again. He writes much more eloquently about what my awareness was as a teen; being superficial and blind, living in the shallows, is sin to me. Staying on the surface is so easy because there are so many distractions nowadays. But God is found in the depths of everything. Living on the surface of anything is so ultimately unsatisfying and empty and yet I find it now quite easy to be there and even stay there. I have always wanted/needed more. A wise friend back in the 70’s told me that was a worthy goal for sure but I needed to be prepared for the loneliness that will result from it because few will want to pursue that with me. He was so right.

I began to pray desperately, “Search me, oh God! Reveal to me what You see in my heart.” It’s not enough just for me to look into my heart and see what is there because that often just sends me into a tailspin and reaching for pen and paper so I can create a to-do list so I can fix it. But I need God, my Holy Father to look into my heart and then see things from His perspective.

I find that distractions have kept me in the shallows, along with false justifications, not praying with any depth and/or asking for only small things, not worshiping Him on a regular basis, not praying His written Word back to Him, living only in my little world, not being in the Word often enough; all of these things have kept me in the shallows. Becoming aware of those areas was sobering and yet liberating because they could all be changed in an instant and they were. God never convicts without sending a remedy at the same moment. The last few weeks have been totally different for me and I am rejoicing.

The changes I have made were not made from a legalistic place (a spiritual to-do list to earn God’s favor) but from a place of true need and desire for change. God is faithful, His Word is true. Even the smallest effort to turn towards Him is rewarded many times over.

Again, I will say, Praise to Him.

Ephesians 1 Part 2

The only other thing I want to write about from this chapter is the times Paul wrote about the reasons he had found for himself and the Ephesians to praise God.

Praising God, believe it or not, was not something I was very familiar with and/or comfortable with while I was in the ministry or in the meeting church in general. It strikes me now as almost unbelievable, but it was true. As a part of the meeting church, I deemed praising God as something only ‘religious’ people did, and one of the big fears had always been to be like religious people. Religious people were made fun of and we assumed everything they did was for show and that none of ‘them’ were sincere or genuine. I am appalled at that ignorance and blindness now on my part for sure. Oh had we but been ‘religious’ because by not being so, we missed out on so many blessings.

Praising God can be done privately and quietly by all means. But I will never forget the JOY bursting from me those first times I used my body to physically help me praise God by raising my hands while singing in worship, or raising my face towards the heavens. Standing to my feet sometimes; both at home or corporately with other believers. Never had anything felt so freeing or so right for me. I felt a release that I knew had been building for decades because FINALLY I had a way to outwardly express what I was feeling within. And no one can accuse me of doing this EVER for show. No one. In those moments, I am totally alone with God; alone with Jesus. I understand finally why David danced before the Lord in the street; he couldn’t NOT do it.

In verse 3, Paul mentions how we praise God. In verse 6, so we praise God. In verse 12, it was God’s purpose that we should praise Him, and in verse 14 Paul wrote about one more reason to praise Him.

I don’t think Paul mentioned praise 4 times accidentally. He specifically used the word praise. In the meetings, we watered down that word to mean ‘giving thanks’ which it does mean in a sense, and there is certainly nothing wrong with giving thanks to God for all his gifts and faithfulness to us! We do this  all the time. But the word praise, the very word itself, takes our gratitude one step higher (or 2 or 3!) it seems because we’re not just giving thanks to God but we’re making everything about God. It’s not about us anymore. It’s not about how we feel or what we have done. It’s all about Him. That, to me, is Praise.

One of the meetings hymns comes to mind:

I will not cease to praise Him for all that He has done, I will not cease to labour until the night has come, I will not cease to follow the path that Jesus trod, I will not cease to worship Him, my Savior and my God.

 

We have been so blessed!

I began reading Ephesians this past week after I got in bed each night; just a few verses to center my thoughts again on the purpose of everything and to get a verse in my head for my insomnia stretch that inevitably hits every night without fail. I need a verse to recite over and over again because it really does help me fall asleep, even if only for a few minutes. (My nights are awful, can you tell?? They are like a quote from a book I just finished reading….this older character in the story said, ‘My body has forgotten how to sleep, but it hasn’t forgotten how to get tired’ Amen, sister!)

So, I’m reading Ephesians from my NLT translation and the first 14 verses were as far as I got all week long. I read them over and over again and what made them so personal and powerful this time was reading them in first person (I, me, instead of you, we). Wow, was it ever impactful, rich and extremely comforting.

The most meaningful thoughts from these verses for me were:
Verse 3 (quoting in first person):

“How I praise God, the Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed me with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because I belong to Christ.”

Oh my goodness! Boy, did I need that verse this week. I have STRESSED and been super anxious big time of late about how in the world am I going to get credit card debt paid off in the next 5 years before I want to retire? I have lost so much sleep over this with no doable solution yet in mind. So, this RICH verse reminded me how wealthy I am in what truly matters and reciting this verse over and over again helped my mind rest. It truly did. I never used to think of myself as a worrier, but I have become one. And yes, I know all those perfect verses in the Bible about what to do with worry and yes, I practice them but not until I’ve had a good worry session first. Sigh! I’m trying, folks, honest! Just being real here.

I already have….now….this minute….every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm there is. I didn’t earn it and I certainly don’t deserve it, but they are all mine, right now. All the love, wealth, Holy Spirit, fruit of the Holy Spirit, knowledge, wisdom, grace, all of it. I have been blessed with them all; all I have to do is step into them. Believe that I have them. Act as if I am not a pauper spiritually, and I don’t have to be a beggar because they are already mine because I belong to Christ. The minute I acknowledge those gifts in my life, they immediately grow into something even more!

The next meaningful thought for me in these verses was:
Verse 4-5 (again quoting in first person):

“Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved me and chose me in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt me into his own family by bringing me to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.”

The last phrase was another wow statement when I read it in the first person. Please know that when I’m reading and quoting these verses in first person, it is not to be exclusive or feel superior or better than anyone, but rather I’m needing the feeling of being inclusive. I need to be aware that I am included in His plan along with everyone else.

I know when I read this phrase, it gave me great pleasure but to sit with the fact that it gave Him great pleasure to do this in the first place is amazing. He has never done anything out of fear or obligation or with any motive other than one being 100% pure; He is totally incapable of doing any of those things. It would be impossible for Him, so when he decided to love me/us, and to chose me/us in Christ to be holy (not become holy because that is impossible for me/us to do), and without fault in his eyes, it gave him great pleasure to do that! Blows me away. And, it is his “unchanging plan” to do this even after all these years and even after mankind has broken his heart zillions of times but, because he practices what he preaches, he keeps forgiving those who hate him and despise him and use him.

This post is getting too long so I’m going to continue my thoughts on Ephesians 1 in another post. Thanks for reading and being patient between posts!

Suits

It’s a name of a TV show that I’ve never watched. However, the title of the show came to mind recently because of something I did last weekend. Something that I’m a bit embarrassed about on one hand, a bit proud of on another hand, and intrigued about on yet another hand. (How many hands does one get in an allegory like this? Who knows?)
I have been mulling this subject over off and on for over a week because I just wasn’t sure which direction to take it. To tell you the truth, I’m still not sure where this is going but here is what happened.

Hanging in one of the ends of my closet was a suit I wore in the Work (ministry); one I would preach in and/or wear to meetings, funerals etc. It has been 16 years since I left the work, and I probably wore this suit for a couple of years more after leaving.

I have been on a house purging project for a few weeks now where every weekend I give away or toss at least one bag, box, or sack of something out of the house. I knew this suit was hanging back there and when I reached for it, instead of one, I discovered 4 worker suits! I had no idea there were that many still “hanging around“! They have been hibernating back there in their plastic dry cleaning bags for at least the 13 years that I have lived in this house!

I had to question… “why on earth had I held on to them all this time?”

This isn’t going to turn into some deep psychological issue but I do think there is a message here for me. I’m not going to write at length about the need to ‘let go’ of things, feelings, etc either because many really good books have been written on that subject and I could never improve on them. However, there are some spiritual parallels that have come to mind that perhaps “fit“.

Here is the thought process I went through to answer the “why” of my question.

I held on to them because of sentimental value largely. Most of them were purchased for me by a dear aunt & uncle and they were expensive. My aunt never wanted me to be a dowdy sister worker!

Because they were expensive, I didn’t want to just throw them away and it was even hard to give them to charity. I didn’t know what to do with them, to tell you the truth.

I pulled them all out and tried a couple of the jackets on; even though I knew none of them would fit any more. The skirts were ridiculously long, the jackets felt heavy. I never have occasion to wear a suit anymore and if I did, I would get a new one. These were outdated. The skirts that had elastic in them…the elastic had become brittle and crunchy.

I let the memories of wearing them flood back in, was thankful I had had such nice clothes to wear in that time of my life, put them back in their bags and took them to charity.

They were the last tangible things left from those years in the ministry. They no longer fit me, fit my lifestyle, or fit where I now am spiritually. The hesitancy to let go of them reminded me of what Jesus said about trying to put new wine into old wineskins. You just can’t do it.

Richard Rohr says in his book, “Falling Upward”:

“if we do not get some new wine skins, the wine and the wine skin will both be lost. The second half of life can hold some new wine because by then there should be some strong wine skins, some tested ways of holding our lives together. But that normally means that the container itself has to stretch, die in its present form, or even replace itself with something better. This is the big rub, as they say, but also the very source of our midlife excitement and discovery.”

So was getting rid of the suits symbolic of examining what no longer fits in my thinking or my routine? Was it about simply creating an empty space to rest in and breathe in? It has felt so good every time I have gotten rid of something out of the house. To just have a bit more clean, empty space in which to live without feeling cluttered or cramped.

Perhaps God is moving me in a direction spiritually also to make room for something new and different. It is so tempting to stay where it feels comfortable and predictable even when it might not be working anymore, or bringing me any joy anymore. But I don’t want to live like that.

I feel like I’m on the cusp of something but I don’t know what it is yet. But with God involved, it will be exciting and never boring. That I know. Tradition and even church can become boring if they stay on the surface of life and never get past the doing, the achieving, the climbing, the comparing, the judging, the “we’re better than you” mentality (which I did both in and out of the meetings), and I never get to God Himself. To let Him lead, teach, move, change, and direct. To live in the weightier matters of life.

Rohr also says:

“In the beginning (of life), you tend to think that God really cares about your exact posture, the exact day of the week for public prayer, the authorship and wordings of your prayers, and other such things.  Once your life has become a constant communion, you know that all the techniques, formulas, sacraments, and practices were just a dress rehearsal for the real thing – life itself – which can actually become a constant intentional prayer. Your conscious and loving existence gives glory to God.”  

Totally letting go of my agenda and being open to ask God to reveal to me areas in my thinking that are causing me to be stuck is scary but also intriguing.  All I need is a little faith and a lot of trust!