No one said leaving would be easy

“Girl At The End Of The World” by Elizabeth Esther is the author’s story of leaving the fundamental church she was raised in. I have referenced it before here but want to again. She writes:

“I had believed leaving The Assembly (what they called their church) was enough. I thought I’d be able to start over fresh in a new church. Why couldn’t I just get over my past? I wish I could tell you I’m 100 percent cured. The thing is, becoming healthy requires help and daily work. And time. I kept thinking I would just ‘get closure’ and move ‘onward Christian soldiers’. But starting our lives over from scratch, building a life in a new city, raising a large family and re-examining every belief in order to find a more balanced way of living has been a far greater task than I ever imagined. It wasn’t enough to leave The Assembly, or even to find a new church to call home. I had to actively untangle myself from the fundamentalism inside me. And I still do. The fundamentalist inside me doesn’t know how to give grace or receive it. But me? I’m learning. Slowly. I’m so thankful God allows us the freedom to leave places that scare us and find safe places where we can rest. God is big enough to meet us anywhere.”

She is so right. It’s one thing to leave the meeting church; it’s a whole other thing to get the meeting church out of us. It seems as if it’s in our DNA. It can take years. But if you want it bad enough, you will hang in there.

It’s also work creating a new community, and no, it will never be exactly the same as we knew in the meetings. But it can be even deeper, more meaningful, and more relevant to real life. There are some amazing people out there; both Christians and non.

Another book I have been reading lately is called Soul Keeping: Caring for the most important part of you by John Ortberg. He writes:

“Jesus had a circle of close friends; the 12 who went through life with him. He shared everything with them. People underestimate the role of friendship in Jesus life.”

Ortberg also wrote about what some of Jesus spiritual practices were:

  • He prayed
  • He engaged in regular corporate worship in synagogue
  • He fed his mind with Scriptures
  • He enjoyed God’s creation—mountains, gardens and lakes
  • He took long walks
  • He welcomed little children, hugged and blessed them
  • He enjoyed partying with non-religious types

Here’s what I’ve realized: I walked away from some friendships I had in the meeting group because I had to for one reason or another.

Many walked away from me for their reasons.
Some of my friends wrote and said we could no longer have fellowship together but still wanted to keep in touch.

Some stayed friends no matter what.

You will find out who your true friends are. Yes, it will hurt, but it may also surprise you. We have to let our friends grow and find their own paths with God and in the process we will lose some wonderful people in our lives. And so will they. I have learned this hard lesson.

I’ve let some meeting people back into my life and that has been a good thing. (Just no super Pharisee’s!) I have let some non-believers into my life and have enjoyed them as well. I have let some non-mainstream-Christians in and found them totally delightful.

Our family is a whole other issue. The pull there can paralyze us if we let it; seldom will they set us free. Jesus addressed that issue head on when he told about how those of our own households would turn against us. He didn’t say it would be easy but he did say it would be vital if we are to follow Him. It all comes down to what you really want. Spend some time on that one.

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11 thoughts on “No one said leaving would be easy

  1. Hi Darla,

    My mother introduced me to your blog, and I must say I appreciate your words of wisdom. I had never thought that I would leave meeting. It too had me fearful and confused as to what was real and true in the way of the Lord, and what was just tradition. I remember feeling guilty all the time, and viewing my Father as someone who was always disappointed in me and my service. It took an extended period of “quiet” time away from meeting to realize that the need to feed my spirituality had never changed, but my love for meeting had disappeared. I had met so many lovely people in my lifetime outside of meeting and I wanted their joy and comfort that they found in life and the Lord!

    5 years later, I feel more blessed, happy and joy-filled than I ever have before! I feel like I finally get what it means to build a solid relationship with God. I would never change my past, as I very much appreciate the values that meeting instilled in me as a child, as I was always curious about cultivating my relationship with God, but I always felt like there was something missing.

    All in all, I am writing to say, thank you. For talking about the “forbidden” topics that many of us want to talk about but feel there are no others that will discuss it with us. I am thankful for your story Darla.

    Best,
    Rebecca

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  2. Thinking about this topic again I realize that really God wants us to forsake ALL ( EVERYTHING) to follow HIM. That means our friends ,our own selfish ambitions,whatever would impede us from giving Him our full attention.We must not love anything to such an extent that we cannot lose it, or feel that we cannot live without it.To count everything but dross, so that we may gain Christ and know Him ,The Only True God.When we shed all the “unecessary ” things we can have a clearer picture of what really matters . Who saves his life shall lose it and who loses it shall save.When a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, a new life is created .All things become new.The new life pushes through the earth and the darkness of it ,to produce new life.Now it benefits from the sunshine! ,The Light of Life. This is a single sheaf now,seeking its way towards the Sun.It has to be able to process its own nutrients etc etc and grow… and grow and grow until the harvest…..this is how I see my life… no one will do it for me.I am totally dependent on God for my life and for everything….and God does provide everything that we need for our lives .Even the hairs of our head are numbered. He cares about the sparrow and imagine how much more for us!..Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and everything shall be added unto you.
    How GREAT Thou art, My GOD!
    I am not saying that one has to leave meetings to do this,but sooner or later we have to decide if we are following God or we are just in a system.It is an individual matter…though on earth we walk together, we must face The Lord alone…

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  3. Darla, once again you have taken us to a familiar, shared place……I suppose some would say, “Well, if it was such a hard thing to leave, then why did you?” Our experience has been that, in fact, most of them don’t really want to know the answer to that, or they might have asked and we would have been happy to tell them. But, as far as the leaving itself, yes, it was probably the hardest thing I have ever done, and yet it became necessary in order to have peace with God and peace with myself. I’m still grieving the loss of friendships, ties I never wished to sever, but the inescapable truth is that a wall has gone up between us that saddens me. There seems to be a certain amount of pity that they feel towards us now, as it is clear we are seen as lost souls. We don’t see ourselves that way, so we are certainly not looking for pity! I don’t think we had illusions about finding a perfect church. By definition, the “church” is made up of people, and people are imperfect. Perhaps we once missed the difference between the perfect Jesus (God the Son) who said He was the Way, Truth and Life……..and a body of believers who call themselves the “Truth and Way”. In some way we can look back and begin to grasp…..we placed it all in the same basket! What an error in my reasoning to ever think that they were all one and the same or at least in some way inseparable! What continues to amaze me is that we now have richer fellowship with other Christians than I ever imagined could be!! People who know the scriptures and actually focus on Christ, loving and praising HIm, and NOT on their own struggles, weaknesses, failings, trials, and tribulations. It is so uplifting to share with them the joy of our salvation. They are not perfect and they do not hold themselves (or their group) to be perfect. They are just rejoicing in the love of Christ, His Light in their lives, and the amazing Grace that makes it all possible!

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    • Jane,
      So good to hear from you again and for your words as well. It is hard to leave but like you said, we had to for our own peace and growth. Others may not understand at all but we had to move on. God does not leave us in our comfort zones for long, I have found out. I don’t know why I once thought He would?!

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  4. Leaving could be easy if we know what we are really leaving. People go their separate ways all the time! Sometimes it is for the better! I was listening to someone this past week talk about living our lives without regret and as if it was our last day. We quickly put things in perspective and realize what REALLY matters.
    When “friends” no longer want to associate with you because your beliefs are different, how retarded is that? Really , they were not your friends.
    God is our TRUE FRIEND,indeed! When all others are gone,he will Always be there,and what other Friend can we wish for!
    When Our Lord is All in All to us, we are complete.We lack nothing ,and desire nothing.
    However, It is a pleasure to know people who love us for ourselves.I think they are our true friends, which are few and far between.Those who truly possess the Love of Christ in their hearts .By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples ,when you love one another.

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  5. I absolutely love this post! It has been my experience so it really resonated with me – deep down inside.
    I have a sister in law who never went to meetings but has heard about the way through my brother who hasn’t gone for a long time. She has a wonderful free way of worshiping God that feeds my heart and the other day we were talking about how much my brother and I have to “unlearn” while we are learning how to truly worship God. It seems like a handicap. I raised my kids in the meetings and I now feel bad about taking them down this road that is deceptive but they have lovingly forgiven me. We also have to remind ourselves that maybe God was leading us down that road for a time and then leading us out of it. It’s been tough but wow, we have learned so much!
    I have had the experience of fellowship with very unlikely people that probably would have turned and ran the other way if I still sported the long dresses and bun of my past life. Every one has taught me so much – most of all that the love of God is WAY bigger than I ever imagined before.
    I so want to have a love relationship with Him (the Trinity) each day. I already long for when He returns and claims us as His own. I want to feel more and more every day.

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    • Betty,
      When you wrote about unlearning things, I could totally relate. I often thought about Paul the apostle’s experience after his conversion. He went to a place away (he writes about this in Galatians, I think) for at least 3 years and I’ve always thought he went there to unlearn tons of his Pharisee-ism and then learn about Jesus. It took me longer than that!

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      • Good point about Paul, Darla. Note worthy also, is that he did not go to Peter or John or James or Jude or any flesh and blood. He conferred only with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and his preaching was 100% from Them and not from any man. No man passed their approval or disapproval on it either!

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