Tuesday, 3 February 2015

How to cope when people leave the church.

I've been alternating between conflicting feelings over the past two weeks. 

At first I felt indifferent and slightly upset. 

Then I began to get angrier and angrier.

Then the anger subsided for awhile and I thought I should try to see how I could help this person.

Then I got angry again. 

Then I blamed myself for what happened.

Then I got angrier, thinking that it was ridiculous to blame myself for what happened.

Then I began to think: What did I miss? How could I not see it? I failed.

Then I got angry again, this time because lashing out on the person might cause the person to backslide. I felt trapped, with no means to let these feelings run free.

Then I googled.

I actually googled this yesterday:

"how to cope when people leave the church"

This was the third article I read. And it really helped me.

I googled because I am to meet this person on Thursday. I didn't want to go and ruin a genuine friendship and stumble somebody with my unreined anger. But I also secretly wanted to let go of this pain, by unleashing it on somebody else, because the burden of carrying it was beginning to crush me.

"It's hard to leave. It's hard being left."

These opening words were enough. I felt like someone heard me, someone understood how I felt.

"Most who leave don't make that decision lightly. 
They deal with some serious pain when they finally make the decision to go.

It's taken me a long time to hit 'publish' on today's post because, 
when I raise an issue, I like to provide solutions or alternatives. 
But I don't have a solution to this one. 

So today's post is not about answers.
It's a public recognition of our shared private pain.
With the hope that we can find some sort of solace
by knowing that we're not alone in these feelings."

And just like that... the anger melted away. The burden rolled away. The fog lifted. My eyes teared up.

By the time I came to the end of the article, I was ready for that meeting on Thursday. 

No regrets, no anger, no fear, no pain. 

It also helped me understand what that person must have been going through in making this decision to leave. 

The past few months have been tumultuous for our church. Not because anyone rocked the boat in a particularly destructive way, but because the "left behinds" of this church have endured one too many departures. 

Having someone leave because of career options is one thing. Having someone leave because they couldn't fit in seems to send the message that our church did not do enough, that we did not endure, put in, suffer enough. 

In the midst of almost breaking down just trying to balance the weekly programmes with work and other commitments (not counting the special events), this felt very uncalled for. 

How much more can we do?

I could see that question in my elder's eyes as I spoke with him over breakfast on Saturday. It saddens me that someone so energetic and charismatic is now in danger of being cynical. 

Yet, it gave me a strange comfort to know that though we were all seemingly drowning, we were all also silently acknowledging each other's burdens and struggles. But I also knew that we were all too burdened to shoulder another's burdens.

This was the writer's reply to my comment on the website:

"I am so honored that the Lord used this post, 
written from our common struggles, 
to be a help to you to face this very difficult moment.
I'll be praying for you as you approach this meeting on Thursday."

I can't pinpoint exactly why it was so comforting for me to read that article. But maybe that was it - I felt that someone who was going through the same thing, still had enough in him to shoulder this burden with me.

Brothers and sisters, this is fellowship in its truest sense.

"And let us consider 
how we may spur one another on
toward love and good deeds..."

Hebrews 10:24a

This fellowship is what this person will need in that new church. 

It is my duty now in my final ministering to that person, to help establish that fellowship for that person, without which no Christian can possibly survive life in ministry.

Thank You, Father, for this answer to prayer.