I Left My Church.
I have left many churches. I am an army brat, so starting over is something I am not unfamiliar with. When I was younger, we moved countless times and walked into new congregations even more. I know what it’s like to attend a church and leave. But I have never known what it was like to LOVE a church and voluntarily let it go.
When I was in Atlanta, I planted roots in a church down the street from my house. The small group became my family, my accountability, my people. Their homes felt like my own. I held their babies and they walked me through a breakup (more than once). I was welcomed in and loved on well. Shortly after this, I decided to move to Chicago. My heart broke for the family, literal and spiritual, that I was leaving behind and I was nervous for my faith outside of my tight knit community. I wasn’t sure I would be able to sustain the growth I had established without my support system.
When I arrived in Chicago, I struggled. I struggled to find my place and my home in the midst of so much transition. I underestimated how difficult it would be for me to begin an entirely new life in a new city. See, when I came up here, I quit my job to attend law school and on top of that, my relationship at the time went from long distance to same city. The transition was overwhelming, and many areas of my life fell apart after a few months of me struggling through all the change.
About 6 months after I arrived, I visited a place that instantly felt like home. It was a much-needed sign that my move to Chicago wasn’t going to be a total bust. I got busy with school but a few weeks later, I went back to that church and planted myself long term. When I returned on that December day after finals, I realized that I needed to be there. The relationship I thought I wanted, fell apart. School was way harder on me mentally, physically, and emotionally than I ever thought possible. I needed some place to go. My studio apartment felt too small. The weather outside was too cold. So, I went to church.
I sat on the right side, close to the back, and cried during the entire service— even the parts that weren’t supposed to make you cry. I remember smiling at a silly skit some people did for the kids who remained in the auditorium. (Fun fact: I am good friends with those people now — God is so funny). Over the next few years, I would call that place home. I would spend countless Sundays there pouring my heart into different serving teams and being poured right back into. I used to joke that I basically lived there because I found myself there in the wee hours of Sunday morning until way after the last service ended. I did it with JOY. There was no place that could ease my soul quite like that one. The people rallied behind me and I met some of my best friends there. I joined small groups and led others. I loved it. I loved this place. It was the light I needed in such a difficult season.
So, as you can imagine, when I started to feel the Lord calling me into a new season, I was flooded with a mix of emotions.
Now, my experience at this church wasn’t perfect because there is no such thing as a perfect church. Church is people and well, you know, people are messy. But overall, I was happy there…until I wasn’t.
The idea of leaving both terrified and excited me. I didn’t quite understand where this sudden discontent arrived from. I felt guilty for no longer wanting to serve all day. I felt bad for sneaking in and out of service hoping nobody would want to stop to chat. This wasn’t like me.Where was this coming from? I loved this place. Why was it suddenly so difficult for me to be there?
On top of that, coming out of the safety net felt really scary. Leaving the nest doesn’t come without even the slightest angst. I was comfortable there. People knew me, I knew them. I could be myself. I felt safe there. The nudges from the Lord were consistent and persistent, gently telling me that it was time to go. I wanted it to be something other than the Lord. I resisted it at first because where would I attend next?? Who would I be without this place?! I felt like I didn’t even have a “real” reason other than knowing that in my spirit, the Lord was calling me out. I wrestled with God as He softly told me my beautiful, transformative, and comforting season was coming to an end. My divine discontent with this place I had loved for three years was a direct connection to the Lord changing the desires and needs of my heart to align with what He had next.
Time was up. Whether I wanted it to be or not, it was time to go. I knew it in my bones. I wanted to be excited. I want to rejoice that God was up to something NEW in my life. But sometimes, obeying the Lord doesn't FEEL fun. Sometimes it feels scary and daunting and sad. I got baptized at that church. I gave my life to Christ at that church. I wept and mourned and rejoiced there. The season was ending, and it wasn’t fun. I understood it was time, but it doesn’t mean I enjoyed it.
But God was and is up to something bigger than just where I attend church. He was trying to tell me that the whole season was over, not just where I go on Sunday mornings. The entire season of mourning, of grieving, of weeping, of rebuilding was over. It was time to go into the NEXT. I had my time to lick my wounds and get myself grounded and stable and healed and whole. Now He was calling me into the new, into the now, into the unknown.
So, I left my church.