Leaving Church

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Before I start with today's entry, I want to welcome all the new people who have come to the site in the last few days. I really appreciate you coming to check out the site, and I hope you enjoy your time here.

Now for today's entry:

I've been struggling with writing the blog over the last few days because I haven't been feeling well. But that's okay - I knew going into writing this blog that there were going to be challenges (holidays, busy work days, days when I don't feel well, days when I just don't feel like reading) . I'm trying (but not always succeeding) to welcome the challenges and not become totally frustrated by them, and to remember that if this was easy there would be no point in me writing about it. Who would want to read a blog about someone doing something really easy, or doing something difficult but doing it effortlessly? The challenges along the way are what will make the end result even more satisfying.

Here's the description of today's book: "After nine years on the staff of a big urban church in Atlanta, Barbara Brown Taylor arrives in rural Clarkesville, Georgie (population 1,500), following her dream to become the pastor of her own small congregation. The adjustment from city life to country dweller is something of a shock, but small town life offers many of its own unique joys. Taylor has five successful years that see significant growth in the church she serves, but ultimately she finds herself experiencing 'compassion fatigue' and wonders exactly what God has called her to do. She realizes that in order to keep her faith she may have to leave."

As I was typing that description up, the book slipped out of my hand and opened to the page that has the author's picture on it, and I'm feeling thrown by it. She looks nothing like how I pictured her in my mind. When the book is non-fiction I like to wait until I'm completely done with the book before I ever look at the picture because I like to imagine the author in my mind, and I don't like the real picture to get in the way. It's like when I read a book that was turned into a movie - I want to picture the person on my own before I ever see the movie because I don't want that image to interfere with my own idea of the characters. Is that weird? So tell me dear readers, am I the only one who does that?

I decided to read this book because I am always fascinated by people whose journey of faith takes a winding road. I just don't know how to relate to the stories that make it sound like an easy, straight path that takes no more effort than following the directions on a map. I supposed there are people who do genuinely experience that, but I suspect for the marjority of people the path is a bit more unpredictable than that. And I find the authors candor about that refreshing and very relatable. It's nice to read a book on the subject and find passages all throughout that make me think, "Yes, that's exactly how I feel" and "I'm so glad I'm not the only one who can't seem to figure this all out."

When Taylor describes her mothers reaction to her decision to go to seminary ("You will get over this") I was reminded of a similar conversation I had with my mother in high school. I wasn't raised within any organized religion, so in high school I became rather curious about all things related to religion, and I did a kind of reverse rebellion and started going to church with the neighbors. My mother was taken aback at first, but soon decided we should sit down and have one of her "mom talks" about it. My mother's mom talks are a far cry from the Olivia Walton/Caroline Ingalls/Claire Huxtable kind that you see on t.v. - there's no talk of being a better person or growing as an individual (I'm saying this with love of course). Her mom talks go a little something like this, "I know that the first day of junior high can be difficult, but the important thing to remember is that you should make friends with the ugly girls. That way, even when you're having a bad hair day or you're just not looking your best for some reason, you still get to be the pretty one." So we sat down to talk about my new interest and she said, "It's not that your father and I mind you trying to be a good person, it's just that we've decided it's not for us." Then my dad chimed in with, "That's right, we like being mean." So we struck up a deal, I wouldn't try to force her to go to church and she wouldn't try to talk me out of it - and that's when my brief streak of adolescent rebellion came to an end - well, with the exception of that hair-dying incident from 11th grade that made me look like Morticia Adams. I try to tell myself that the really dark hair made me look cute, like Snow White, but a second look at the pictures blows that delusion right out of the water.