Home > Church, Faith, Relationships, The Life and Times of a Disenfranchised Christian > The Life and Times of a Disenfranchised Christian, volume iii: Long Line of Leavers

The Life and Times of a Disenfranchised Christian, volume iii: Long Line of Leavers

I was thinking today of the pattern in my life of leaving things and people behind. Sometimes it’s a painful process, sometimes a natural one; sometimes it’s both. It seems a normal thing for people to move on, to grow out of something, to go a different way from someone. And, taken in itself, leaving seems like a detrimental habit – one that while necessary needs also to be balanced with the habit of staying. The band that coined the title of this post seems to have meant it in the negative:

I come from a long line of leavers
Out of the garden gate with an apple in their hands
I expect and i believe
You’re gonna run out of love
You’re gonna give me the shove
‘Cause that’s the thing that lovers do
Then there’s you

Leaving, in its good incarnation is growth, in its bad incarnation fear or bitterness. Staying in its good form is commitment; in its bad form it’s stagnancy or, again, fear.

I’ve left behind many things. Homes, for one – the buildings and rooms, the towns and schools, the neighbors and friends. We moved several times growing up; then there was college where I moved about once a year, and even after I was married the pattern continued – we’re gearing up for our sixth move in just over six years of marriage, including one across the country. This one is meant to be the last for a very long time, which in itself will be something new to get used to.

There are the friends I’ve left behind. I was accused once by a high school girlfriend of being “the kind of guy” who abandons friends. To some extent she was right – I was quick to depart a friendship when I had been hurt deeply, and quicker still when I had new friends I was making. On the other hand, she said this when I was trying to break up with her, so take her words as you will. I am by nature an avoider of conflict, which motivated many of my leavings. It wasn’t until I found friendships that for one reason or another I wanted to keep more than I wanted to avoid the conflict that arose that I screwed up my courage, prepared myself to hurt, and plunged into the process of learning how to fight well.

Even so, the leaving continued. I went through an intense several years between college through the first years of marriage when I began to face the shortcomings of my own heart, and the shortcomings of others against it. In the middle of this process I found myself leaving two more close friends not because of anything they did so much as my resentment of the unhealthy patterns I discovered in myself that were playing out in my relationships with them. I couldn’t deal with the challenge of disentangling myself from the bad while retaining the good. Still, I’m thankful to be able to say that one of these friends I count now one of the people who knows me and loves me best, thanks in part to the determination we both found later on down the road to reconnect and navigate the conflict.

I could go on – the female friendships I stepped back from when I began dating Amber, or the high school and college classmates who by way of course were left behind. There’s another category of leaving that’s been on my mind recently though, one that’s a bit more amorphous and elusive – the leaving behind of paradigms and beliefs along the way in my spiritual journey. Like most people who spent their childhood Sundays in church, I left behind the habit of church and the blind compliance with what was then only my parents’ faith once I reached college, where I soon found my own reason to embrace faith and return to Christian community. Over the next eight years or so I left several of these communities and some of the paradigms or beliefs they embodied as I outgrew and/or became disillusioned with them – taking with me, I hope, the traits they demonstrated that I found valuable.

There was the conservative evangelical college community which showed me the value of committed faith-based community in the first place, but which I left when I found their bottom-line expression of faith essentially to be getting into theological arguments with strangers (and friends). Then one summer was the Pentacostal community in Nashville which gave voice to the bold and passionate side of my nature, and which I left when they shut down because nothing they were bold or passionate about had happened.

The next church community I left remains my favorite, and is one that in some ways I’m still leaving four years later. It’s a growing, multi-ethnic church in the heart of Boston whose pastor is a former atheist and playwright and whose motto is “Practical. Spiritual. Fun.” I found it to be all three, and during the course of my time there made some of the best friends I’ve had (and still have). My faith was grown and also challenged – this was that period of time, for example, that a lot of my personal stuff came to the surface. I explored spirituality and emotional healing concurrently, all in the midst of a community of people who were on similar and parallel journeys. I left this one by circumstance, and probably before I was ready to. Boston as you may have heard is an expensive place to raise a family, and at the time Amber gave birth to Hannah, she held the only job in the family. So we had to get the hell out of Dodge, where Dodge was a place that cost a Benjamin and a half per square foot a month to live in and hell was our dwindling bank account.

The line continued in our new town, with several churches not worth going into detail about. And I’m getting tired of making lists anyway. What I’m finding myself leaving recently is church itself. Not the practice of going to church, since I still attend a church that to some extent I enjoy. And not the Church in the global sense of the word, as I haven’t recanted my faith nor abandoned my God journey. But church as the epicenter of that journey – the place where I explore and experiment with my questions of faith, the community I look to for a network of friends to do life with, and the place where in general I expect to be most fulfilled. Churches have served me well in all these areas, and I think will continue to do so. But I mentioned recently I’ve been uncovering more of my own narrow-mindedness lately, and some of this has been due to my never really looking much further than the church in my spiritual journey.

When we had been in Cincinnati only a few months I called a friend in Boston asking him to pray with me about the frustrations we were already facing with churches here, and in the course of our prayer and conversation he suggested church may not be the place we would find connection and purpose in our new location. Prophecy is a subject I’ve explored in great depths in years past, and its successful application still remains an elusive practice to me. But if one (rather lengthy) definition of it could be speaking things that are or will be true on an emotional and/or circumstantial level to people who may or may not believe it, then this is one of the times in my life that I’ve seen it happen.

  1. November 12, 2008 at 9:36 am

    I couldn’T stop my tears, i was so sad and my sadness was icreasing.I liked your writing style and ur story is so similar to mine.
    I totally agree with u
    Amazing Text, i ll be a regular reader of ur Blog

  2. April
    May 18, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    I can’t believe the timing on this. I was praying about this today & last night. This totally describes the way I feel. I have felt “heavy” in my heart today, and I have been praying for answers. The word, “disinfranchised” popped into my head. I thought, “Yea, what are the chances of anything showing up on the internet?” Then I found your blog. Talk about prophetic, thank You Lord. Thanks for sharing so I know I’m not alone…

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