In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives – to see what it is like to walk in their shoes. Today I’m thrilled to introduce you to my friend Leigh Kramer! She is the lovely writer of one of my favorite blogs, and the woman behind the popular What I’m Into link-up. Let’s join our friend while she shares with us what it is like to walk in her shoes. ~ Love, G
There were two common reactions when people found out about my year-long church sabbatical: immediate understanding or shock often followed by deep-seated concern. Those in the latter category worried a sabbatical would kick off a slippery slope or felt I was disobeying God by not going to church. Mostly they couldn’t see how a sabbatical would be a good thing. While I wished otherwise, I understood where they were coming from. 15 years ago I likely would have expressed that same concern.
But thank God for those in the former category because many had similar experiences or grasped how healing it could be.
Because it was healing. God met me there and my faith is stronger as a result.
Hindsight is ever 20/20 and what I needed to do seems obvious now. It took stepping away from church for me to see it though. Had I not given myself space to discern what I need from a faith community, I shudder to think where I’d be.
Coming off of the sabbatical has been a different matter. There isn’t a quick fix, no way to snap my fingers for it to all be well with my soul. Instead, it’s been tremulous steps back, a week by week determination of whether and where to show up.
Last August I went back to church but it took another month before I went back again. Throughout the fall I visited three different mainline churches, spaced out by weeks. This is how I showed grace to myself and honored the healing that had occurred and the healing still needed.
When you’ve been hurt by a church, it takes courage to physically rejoin the Body. It also takes humility to mine the dark periods for the light. I cannot villainize any part of my church experience, though I will not deny the ways it hurt me. I will also not deny the ways my personality and disposition affected those experiences. After all, I didn’t go to church in a vacuum. Plenty of people from previous churches have different takes on situations and did not respond the way I did. So who’s right? I believe we all are.
(This would be a different conversation had abuse occurred. That is always wrong. Full stop.)
I’ll still point out what could have been done better then and what can be done better now. But I do so acknowledging our humanity and our propensity for seeing only our point of view. When we have eyes to see and ears to hear, much good results. I also recognize I can be the person whose eyes are covered, whose ears are plugged.
This is the risk and tension of community. Will we pledge to stand beside each other through miscommunication and misunderstanding? Will we support one another in times of sickness and strife? Will we each do our part to be the Body of Christ?
I’m not quite all in yet but there will come a day when I’m ready to join a Sunday school class or figure out where to volunteer. Part of me aches to be ready, while another part recognizes my wish to skip past this necessary waiting room. I tend to jump in before I’m ready so I’m biding my time.
Because I bided my time, I narrowed down a stream of options to the three churches I visited last fall. And it is because I bided my time again, I found my church. I’ve never felt safer or more connected to the saints than I have in this Episcopal church.
I’ve never attended a church which observed Lent before. For my first Lent, I decided to re-adopt the practice of attending church. For every Sunday I was in town, I would be seated in a pew. Not for legalistic reasons but to remember the community element of faith and to experience church in a safe setting on a regular basis. I needed to get back in the habit of going.
Around week 4, I marveled as I drove to church. No anxiety, no dread. I looked forward to the service ahead. This has continued.
Will I go to church every week from here on out? I can’t say. In fact, I missed this past Sunday due to the aftereffects of a week’s worth of visitors and too little sleep.
But I hope I’ll begin to recognize some of the people at my new church and they’ll recognize me back. I hope this will be the start of deeper community and communion. Fellow travelers all.
Bio: Leigh Kramer is on a quest; she’s living life on purpose. Her to-do list might look something like this: leave life in the Midwest for Nashville, Tennessee with only fried pickles for comfort, quit steady job as a social worker to chase that dream of writing at last, suck the marrow out of life’s in-between places and revel in the now at every turn. She is a contributor at A Deeper Story. Leigh shares this journey through words of transparency, heart, and just a dash of pluck at LeighKramer.com and on Twitter at @hopefulleigh
To read more encouraging stories, or if you are interested in sharing your own story, please go to the In Her Shoes tab near the top of the page. I love learning about the people in this series. Connecting with others seems to make the world feel not quite as big and scary. We’re all in this together. I can’t wait to hear from you, to read your stories, and learn more of what it is like to walk in your shoes.
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