I didn’t think I would write about this personal experience, but today I realized that in order to fully heal, I need to express myself.
So here I go.
Five months ago, I made a well-thought out and measured decision to leave the religion of my birth. Let me make this perfectly clear: I left a religious organization. My faith is still intact.
I was quite active in the local-area church of that religion: I was a scripture reader; I trained other scripture readers; I started a volunteer chore ministry that served the members of that local church as well as the geographic community in which that church is located; and I contributed financially to both the local-area church and the “Mother” church.
The catalyst for my leaving the religion of my birth was the “Mother” church’s decision to encourage all local churches of that religion in Washington state to hold a political petition signing at each church service on a particular Sunday in April 2012. Each local church was given the option of whether or not to hold this particular petition signing; some churches opted out, many opted in. Therein lies part of the problem.
I firmly believe in the absolute separation of church and state. When I heard that this petition signing was to take place, I approached my local church and asked if they would be participating. “Yes” was their answer, and they did. The issue at hand for me is that once you bring politics into a church’s sanctuary – regardless of the political party, cause, or issue – you taint the worship space that was created for the express purpose of praising God, celebrating the rituals in which we find comfort, and building up the Body of believers who call that local church the home base for their faith.
My “beef” isn’t even with the local church I left. (As a matter of fact I met with the local church leadership to talk about my concerns and my intention to leave and we had a very thoughtful and respectful conversation.) My beef and major concern centers around the hierarchy of leadership that holds onto teachings that I have not supported for quite some time now. The petition signing was merely the catalyst for me to finally be true to myself and the faith in which I clothe myself.
Now the healing that I’m seeking – healing from an unfulfilled expectation. I cared deeply about many of the people with whom I worshiped and I thought the feeling was mutual. You see, after more than ten years of attendance and active participation, I had the expectation that someone would a) notice that I was no longer there; and b) care enough to get in touch with me. Five months after leaving the church I received an e-mail from someone asking if I had left the parish, because this person missed seeing me on Sundays. That e-mail made my day. That e-mail both made me grieve, and rejoice. Grieve – because only one person cared enough to reach out to me. Rejoice – because one person reached out to me and confirmed that I mattered.
The lesson in all of this for me is that it’s not the local church’s fault that I’m hurt from their lack of response to my absence. I erroneously placed my personal expectation onto others – those who didn’t know what I had hoped would happen. I’ve come to believe that “expectation” is simply a fantasy of a personal hope that we try to impose on other people and/or events.
In that respect, the phrase “unfulfilled expectation” is a contradiction in terms. Again, going with my definition of fantasy, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines fantasy in this manner: the free play of creative imagination. The dictionary also provides an obsolete definition of fantasy as “hallucination.”
So there you have it. I hallucinated what I had wanted to take place – but it wasn’t fact.