We showed up at your churches on fire for God, some of us anyway. We may have even announced our entrance into your families with bold phrases liked “called here” or ”led by God.” That fire in our belly melted away all boundaries, if we even had any to begin with, and we were your go to girls and guys. Your guaranteed yeses. In the classroom of your sanctuaries we sat in the front with our hands raised and flailing. You need something done? PICK US! PLEASE! WE WILL DO IT!
Maybe we wanted to prove ourselves. Maybe we thought it would make God love us more. Maybe we wanted to do something BIG for the LORD like we were promised at those not so distant teen rallies where we wept in the arms of our best friend in Christ. Maybe we just never learned to say no to the church. Maybe we never wanted to before.
But now? Now we are leaving , leaving the church we were once on fire for. Leaving the place we call home. And as we walk out the front door we are called whiny, entitled, self absorbed. And I don’t know, maybe we are. But maybe, like the baby boomers quietly leaving out the back, we are tired. Maybe we are just so tired. We have grown from the barely out of our teens eager selves into mothers and fathers with very small children, working parents (even if we didn’t plan it that way) we are stretched too thin at work. We are constantly needed at home. We are tired when we get to you, every week. We are tired before we get there, and the last thing we need is someone or something else that needs us.
At one point it may have excited us, the new program, the fresh sign up sheet, and maybe it isn’t your fault we changed. But we have, and it seems to be at least partially your problem. We don’t need another program, certainly not one that you are going to ask us to be a part of. We don’t need another night of the week where we are not around our own dinner tables. We don’t need another book to scribble answers in in the car on the way to bible study because we don’t want to be the only one with blank pages. What we need is to go to bed early, or the babysitter for a date night.
We need to rest, need to breathe, need to once be the one with the needs. We need there to be room for that. Need there to be someone to say it is okay to be the one who needs in this season,.
We have been volunteering n the church setting since we were the only first grader able to memorize Mary’s lines. We graduated to Jr. Deacon passing the plates around the congregation, to nursery duty and vbs assistant. We have taught Sunday school and brought casseroles, sung in the choir and written prose. We have picked up people, and trash and canned goods for shelters. And though we are accused of it, we are not complaining about any of that service. We found Jesus in the grind, volunteered for all of that after all. We did so willingly. But when are we allowed to be tired? When does someone pick us up? I wonder if we are leaving the church because what we need is to put on yoga pants and have some tea and really see each other. We need to spill the tangled mess of our harried lives to each other and just cry together. Instead, what we are being offered is more programming that someone has to run. Maybe us.
Maybe, in the heat of the on fire for God that was our teenage years, our boundaries about volunteering for the church melted all away, and the church doesn’t know how to stop asking, only how to use us until we are all used up. Maybe we are leaving to protect our families and fight for our marriages that the church taught us to hold so sacred in the first place. Maybe we are leaving because we are tired. Maybe we need to have needs.
It sounds like maybe you are growing up. Congratulations. It only gets better.
I hope you don’t stop posting. I always enjoy your posts, immensely
Thank you, Abby. Too much energy spent on trying to be better, more active, more whatever for the church, and not enough time and energy left to simply be.
I refuse to volunteer for Sunday School or nursery. I’m surrounded by my own kids 24-7. I don’t need any more. And I refuse to let myself feel guilty about it, but sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s ok that I don’t – because no one else is telling me that. I have to explain it to people.
I stepped down from heading up the coffee stuff on Sunday a few months ago – partly from being burned out, and partly as a process of leaving my church,a nd my pastor was like ‘good for you for recognizing you need a break’ and I wanted to be like yeah, but there should be systems in place to make people step down BEFORE they are burned out. And what if I didn’t recognize it? Or what if I did, but I felt guilty stepping down?
And, I’ve heard one of my pastors use this phrase before, and I heard it again last weekend and it finally really rubbed me wrong and I realized why, but, I’m leaving, so there’s no point in working myself up about it 😛 But he said, in reference to ppl in church just coming and not serving, ‘we have a lot of takers but not a lot of givers.’…….I want to write about that eventually, but UGH. 1, wth? What if we just need to be there? And why is Sunday morning so complex that you need all htese ‘givers’ just to function? Simplify!!! And 2, where is grace in all of that? If you are keeping score on who does what, or if a person is not giving enough…just wth? FTS.
I am DREADING finding a church when we move. I don’t even want to bother. If it wasn’t for the kids…:/
This is kind of how I feel right now Caris. If it wasn’t for abigail I would not have volunteered to teach her Sunday School class. I want her to have some kind of foundation I suppose to build from, where I can then expand on and branch off of. Yet then I think, to what, or whose expense am I doing that.
I hear you write Abby about being tired and I feel the same way. I remember my old “mentor” saying things about blessing others even at the expense of ourselves, how blessing and giving will get us out of our own self absorbed attitudes. And I CANNOT even describe the pain that shot to my heart.
I don’t want to go, to do, to try to be someone I am no longer. Especially because it was the church who told me I had to be that person.
I don’t know. It’s a struggle I am finding myself to be deeper in everyday. The part about that “BIG thing I was promised” because my story “was/is SO AMAZING” and how “God is going to just move and do BIG things”
I have lots of feelings and profanity about that. But maybe that’s a vox convo 🙂
As a church we should educate instead of shame; encourage instead of ply with guilt; and teach to bless so one can be a blessing. Life is often out of balance… we should be ok with takers and praise God if we can be a giver for we will have times when we have nothing to give and need to be blessed by a giver. We need people in the church like you Caris because you understand what grace is really and what the church should do and certainly not do. Thanks for your words and yours too Abby as always!
ahh, thank you. That same pastor, who I’m actually great friends with, also was really pushing everyone to greet everyone on Sunday and just talktalktalk to people in case they were new, so that we can be a friendly church, yadayada, and I told him I wouldn’t do it, and didn’t feel bad about it, because I’m a super-introvert and I know that and I’m good with that. I make an effort to get to know people one on one, and have had other people comment on it, so I know it’s not just in my head, haha, and he was like ‘well that’s good that you know how you should interact with people’ and I wanted to be all, ‘how about you say that from the pulpit, instead of just expecting people to know their own limits, and most likely feeling guilty if they don’t do it the way you say it should be done?’ He would say the same thing, that I’m a good assest to the church b/c of that kind of stuff and I wanted to be all, ‘how about you preach some of it then’, haha.
These are hard words to write, I imagine. And hard words to hear – as a pastor and leader. But I thank you for writing them and I encourage you to say them, out loud, to your pastors, your friends, whomever will listen. Because they are extraordinarily important words. We all need to need, to just ‘be’ in the space for a while. To take in, absorb, replenish, rest. And there is not one thing wrong with that. What I’d like to hear, in addition to this honest admission of spent energy and lack of time, is some real, critical thinking about how the church can better be the church in this current time/place/reality. I have a hunch some pretty major dismantling needs to happen, some strong teaching about the misplaced priority of program over people needs to happen and that congregations need to re-learn what ‘church’ means. This is actually a huge topic, Abby – and one that’s worth exploring. Except, of course, that then it becomes one more thing on the to-do list and that’s not helpful at all, is it? Love to you, tired mama.
One of the things that I love about the Episcopal church is that it involves people without much involvement. You stand up and read verses on Sunday, or sing in the choir, etc….that kind of involvement and participation is really appealing to me.
I’ve just recently started really helping out at a church we’ve come to think of as “home.” I was surprised at how many people were suddenly vying for my time the second I said “I’ll help.” I think I may have gotten in a little over my head, but I’m not burned out yet.
I think the reason the people who are willing to help are pulling so much of the load is that there are a lot of people at churches who just show up on Sunday morning and do nothing throughout the week to help out. Sometimes this is laziness on their part, sometimes it is the church not properly communicating its needs, and sometimes it is those of us who are trying to just do it all who aren’t giving others a chance to be needed.
If it makes you feel better, you can think about how your serving too much takes the opportunity away from others who need to be serving in that capacity. Or just remind yourself that you can only do so much, and you are already tackling a huge mission field at school.
Totally understand. There is too much asked of those who CAN DO and DO. The needs outnumber the capable and willing souls. There is a time to need to take care of our own needs. Time to make a boundry around our time and energy. Much older than you, I understand. I see so many that are asked and reply and meet others needs in your decade of life. Could this be a plot to unravel the heart of the good? The strength of the family? I think perhaps, because if WE get weary of doing the good that needs to be done, or answer the task expected by others, or listen one more time to another’s request, we can be erased in the process.
I have just started a self declared retreat until the balance becomes at least more even.
You are a fantastic writer, Miss Abby!! Blessings of rest upon you.
I like this discussion.
Praying Matthew 11:28-30 for you. X
It is OK to say no to programs – even programs in the church. It is not really that difficult to figure out what is programs and what is Jesus approved priority. You name two priorities for young people – marriage and kids. These two take lots of time. Remember “my yoke is easy.”
Are we twins separated at birth? Thank you for writing this.Hopefully someone is listenint!
I learned a long time ago how and when to say “No”. And my life has been so much better. I was raised in the atmosphere that if someone in the church asked you to do something, it was like God asking you. Not true. So not true. And I learned that just because I’m gifted at doing something doesn’t mean I have to use that gift all the time. crazy-making. So, take time to sit at the feet of Jesus, hang out with your family and friends, and just be…
(@CarisAdel) I think the pastor has the talktalktalk wrong,people are busy, with schedules to keep. Some are don’t like to talk to strangers, children with meds that have to be given at certain time, elderly parents that have to be taken care of. when service is over at our church people are out of there, the deacons and the people on his committee for the month have a large complex to check out, and it is getting bigger most Sundays our little country church has between 5 to 600 maybe more,
New here, glad I found you! You are being wise, dear one, when you focus on your family and you, and resting in Jesus. I am older, and spent so much time and energy “serving” when my kids were little that I was always anxious and frazzled. The other part of it is how I have watched others serve yet when we need to be ministered to, the business of the church is not there for us, the machine just keeps on rolling and impatiently wants to know when we can get our act back together so we can jump back in. Hang in there, know your readers are here, in our yoga pants, nodding our heads.
You don’t know what your encouragement means to me. Thank you. It is so hard to get off the crazy train when it is labeled “church.”
I’ve thought about this blog so much since you wrote it. I’ve been in an out of hospitals so couldn’t write right away. What I want to say to you is that Christianity makes very littly sence outside of community. I am in no way being critical of your choice to leave your situatuaion, but O was without a church for 12 years and it was a very har time in my life. So I hope you look for a faith community in which you can give your gifts, but also in which you are nourished. No faith community is perfect, but investing in community is so important. God bless you in this time of discernment.