Telling my story, again

One of my neighbors waited for a ride to church Sunday morning, when I entered the common room.  She looked askance at my outfit, and almost whispered, “Are you wearing that to church?”  I smiled and shook my head, and explained that Mom and I had a breakfast date at 9:00.

“You must go to a later service,” she said with confidence.  When I shook my head again, she stared at me, obviously unbelieving.  “When do you go to church?”

“I don’t,” I said.  “I quit the church years ago, and I never looked back.”

“But, then, you aren’t saved,” she gasped, adding, “Aren’t you afraid of Hell?”

Now, I carried on this very conversation with others who live in my building, and I knew I could choose between sparing her feelings, by lying about my own, or set off another round of condemnation from all the religious people in the building.  I decided, (in error, I learned,) that she could handle the truth, so I told her the story about belonging to and leading churches, in the earlier years of my life, about my decision to become a minister, (“you mean, you just decided?  Weren’t you called?”)

I confessed my melodrama — I thought I was called, I even told my sister I was called, which earned me a snicker.  I protested, loudly and long.  I explained to my neighbor: deep  inside, I thought I could be a successful pastor.  But that honest feeling never even broke the surface of my mind.

I will not go through the whole story here, but I found courage, in the admiration, (read sexual attraction, ) of a senior minister.  Read about that here.  (I tagged that post badly.)  I served two different parishes — one in Maine, one in Adirondack Park, New York.  I talked a little about my experiences in those churches, but mostly I told how I decided to leave the church.

I refused to accept that I was too immature.  Rather I blamed my congregation, my district superintendent and his committee, anyone but myself.  I told lies about others for decades; only since I began to blog could I accept the true reason I quit.  Example:  from the time I reached New York, I served two churches, the smaller of which was in a village in the mountains.  I loved the bar in that little town, and I spent a lot of time there.  I excused my behavior by saying I was reaching out to part of the un-churched community.  In fact, I was drinking, playing pool, and looking for a boyfriend.  I thought I fooled the congregation.  

Nope.

I behaved badly.  By the time I left the church, I was sitting on the upstairs porch of the bar, smoking dope.  I continued until I was confronted by my district superintendent.  I don’t know who complained, or if anyone did, but the church could have spoken in one voice that I was acting inappropriately, when I wasn’t in the pulpit.  They loved my services, and the rituals I performed.  I was too immature for the responsibility.

So I left.

Over the years, I shortened this story by an hour of more , and now I told it honestly.  I became so involved telling the tale, that I really didn’t pay much attention to the woman to whom I was talking.  When I finished, and really looked at her, I knew I should have kept my trap shut.  Her eyes were wide, and she got very fidgety.  Then this quiet woman stood, and announced she would prefer I not talk to her.  (Usually a good sign that I upset my listener.)  She sat back down, and I shut my mouth and waited for my ride.

I believed I had overcome my resentment towards the church and my anger at my own mistakes.  Something I need to work on.  But in my heart, shocking this poor woman was gratifying.  How human, and ridiculously childish as well. The search for maturity continues.

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2 responses to “Telling my story, again

    • The woman started the conversation. It led to you telling more than she expected to hear, but I do not think that is so bad. I often need to say too much. If a listener really wanted to halt me they could. Your listener could have too. (Did in the end.) They have the option of interrupting, commenting, walking away. And we can find folks who want to hear (read) our stories.

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