Anniversaries are often times of celebration. They mark a significant day or event in a person’s life or the life of a group. Recently I reread some posts from a year ago. I actually wanted to determine the anniversary of my departure from Building-Based Christianity. I know the approximate date because the fellowship I attended planned to confirm elders on that day and I was unwilling to participate in the process so used that Sunday to mark my departure from the Building.
While I did not find an exact date for my departure, reading my old posts did remind me of some other things. For example, change is slow. Leaving requires a lot more effort than I expected. Knowing what offends me, angers me, frustrates me, or confuses me is easier than knowing what to DO differently, or how to respond, or where to actually “plug-in” in order to make a difference. Even that phrase “make a difference” creates stress in my brain. How can I ever “make a difference” if I do not even know who I am!?
In the name of full disclosure I must say, my departure from Building-Based Christianity began by exposing a lie I had been trying to live in my personal life. For the better part of 25 years of marriage I embraced and sincerely tried to turn myself into the image of “a good Christian wife” I had in my mind. This image was passed on through various Christian sources including my own reading of scripture. I read and reread passages like Ephesians 5:22 where women are told, “wives submit to your husband as to the Lord.” I was cautioned in women’s Bible study groups that, “It doesn’t only apply when we want to submit. The Bible is clear about what our job is. And we needn’t worry about our husband’s job. Leave that to God.” I thought, if I could only submit, love, meet my spouse’s needs, and transform myself enough, I would be fulfilled and happy knowing I was serving the Lord.
But I failed. I could not submit enough or love enough or meet enough of the need. The insecurities my husband and I brought with us into marriage made believing we were loved (by anyone) nearly impossible. They also cast doubt on our abilities to love someone else (specifically each other). As our marriage progressed, my attempts to submit and love without expecting anything in return morphed into a silent hostility (and later numbness) as I walked out a marriage of duty and obligation. My spouse’s need bucket was full of holes. So no matter how much I poured into it I could never fill the bucket. My bucket was jammed shut. Thus whatever he did to try to fill it was interpreted by me as an attempt to fill his own unmet needs. His pain and fear was expressed in a greater and greater need to control. My pain and fear was expressed in a greater and greater desire to hide or escape.
We are no longer where we were.
I woke up.
I quit trying to live a lie.
It would take too much time to explain exactly when and how but not long after our youngest daughter (now 4) was born the threads I had hung onto began to unravel. Being honest with myself became more important than belonging to someone else, even if it was going to cost me my pride and end in a broken marriage and disrupted family. Being awake (seeking truth, walking in freedom, fighting injustice, and exposing the lies I had been living) became more important than whether others saw me as a “good Christian woman” (wife and mother) or as an “unrepentant sinner”.
We are not there yet (wherever there is).
Healing takes time.
I was naive to think I could step outside the Building and God would lead me right into a new dynamic ministry. I shudder now even at the thought–it is so Building-based. Healing and reprogramming take time. The old skin needs to be shed before the new skin can truly fit.
I started this post thinking I was going to say something to the effect of: “change takes time. I am still saying all the same things I said a year ago but I have not done much. Perhaps this year will be better.” Yet, I do not think I believe that any longer. Change does take time. But I am not saying all the same things I was saying a year ago, or at least I am not thinking the same way I was. Leaving the Building is not so much the beginning of a journey to find something else, something with which to replace the Building. Leaving is the something else. Let me say that again. Leaving. Is. The something. Else.
Change takes time. This change will take the rest of my life.
Leaving the Building behind required a lot more effort than I thought it would. It requires daily choices. New effort–this day and this day and this. Plugging-in means waking up and engaging in the lives around me, with the life in front of me–every day. Leaving the Building is strenuous. We do not have any padded pews to sit in and days, even weeks go by when a padded cell looks truly inviting.
I probably need therapy. I certainly need fellowship. Yet finding a safe place is difficult, exhausting, and scary. Being a safe place for others is often the same way.
I celebrate the anniversary of my departure from the Building but not with fireworks and a gala party. I observe this anniversary instead with prayer, a whisper of thanksgiving that He is always with me, that He loves me and that nothing, even life outside the Building, can separate me from His love. That is the thread I hang onto these days. And it is really the only thread I have for others.