“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.