Several years ago, I walked away from the Church. There were no loud protestations nor broad sweeping accusations. I turned quietly, and with a whisper, I snuck out the side door. I chose to leave when many of my peers were making similar decisions, and there was comfort and validation in that joint exodus. But their choices and the reactions to those choices, though there were common threads, looked quite different than mine. I left from a place of deep hurt.
I had spent years longing for impossible things, full of nostalgia for what never was and the desire for what could have been. Unlike the experiences of many of my peers, my leaving was not welcomed with pleading phone calls or last-minute visits from leadership to convince me of my worth. There were no promises of love, and there was very little compassion. For the most part, there was only silence.
I did not fit. I never really had, and being human in a world without tolerance for humanity felt like a game I would never win. And so, for years, instead of acknowledging that there might be something wrong with that world, I decided there was something wrong with me.
I tried to shapeshift, to meet some impossible standard for womanhood, and I collapsed in exhaustion, simmering anger, sadness, and failure. This was not life on the Vine, let alone a woman of God living fully. This was broken me trying to measure up, desperately chasing what God had already freely given. I carried the burden of unmet expectations from the Church, myself, and the world.
The restlessness began long before I left. For many years, it was a low hum in my belly. I was haunted by the sense of being trapped in my own life, a byproduct of the weaponization of calling, and only now, on the other side, can I name it. The deep waters of my soul were nudging and prodding, alerting me that something was wrong and needed to change, but I believed the lie that I was only as valuable as my ability to conform.
When I looked around at the women in my circle, I marveled at their wildly different stories. They were women with expansive hearts and passion fierce enough to start wildfires. Each experience was proof that life was never meant to be a cookie-cutter, culturally constructed carbon copy of some ideal. There is no one way to live, love, raise children, arrange a family, run an organization, and serve a community. In the face of that realization, I remembered who I was and changed the game.
And so, it was time.
I needed to stop waiting for someone else to say I mattered and had worth, a voice, and a place. I needed to stop chasing understanding and validation. It was time to embrace the truth that the One who knit me together in my mother’s womb was the one breathing life into my leaving.
I have children, young adults, who needed me to show them not how a woman pretends her life is perfect but how a woman deals honestly and bravely with an imperfect life. I needed to model for them that God is not contained within four walls, and I longed for them to know the One who loves them more than any institution. My children could only understand this if I showed them and accepted it myself. I had to believe it first because they would never hear their own songs unless their mother kept singing.
It’s a scary, life-changing paradigm shift to look squarely in the mirror and ask, “Am I moving with God to rescue, restore, and redeem? OR am I clinging fast, jaw-clinched, to habits, customs and comfort in full knowledge of injustice and imperfection?”
Today, I stand on the other side of the door, having put myself back together completely differently. I am whole, strong, open, and vulnerable – but I am now a different shape and size. I could not fit myself back into the person I was, even if I tried.
I am not angry or resentful. I look back with no bitterness but with nostalgia and hope. I am sad that there is such loyalty to Church culture and such deference to tradition that people are afraid to deconstruct in the places it has lost its way. I hope the Church will recognize that Jesus would publicly call out those guilty of hurt. He wouldn’t shrink back in silence; he wouldn’t bury the evidence or cover up abuse. And he would never ignore, condemn, or ostracize those who chose to step back, in devastating humility, abandon loyalty, and stand with courage to say this is not good enough.
We become a pariah of sorts when we leave. Reach out to those who are hurting at the hands of the Church. Listen and love without defense. Both are possible.
Today, I am creating space to relearn the goodness, the wholeness, and the joy of a loving God. It’s different out here. It’s beautiful, wild, and holy, and I am simply getting on with it. I am going about the sacred work of justice and mercy and the labor of reconciliation and redemption, all wrapped up in a rugged, messy, to be like Jesus package of donkeys and dusty roads.
Today, I meet the world with unconditional love, compassion, understanding, connection, and divine wisdom, walking tall in the assurance of calling. And in doing so, I can venture on the path with greater ease, lightness, trust, and eternal surrender. Leadership demands that I rise above the hurt and keep going. My doubts, questions, inquisitive musings, and vulnerabilities do not make me a liability to a loving God. And I can assure you, beautiful people, whether you stay or whether you go, there is healing to be had, and there is work to be done. I promise.