I’d leave my house to make sure I would get there as close to the starting time as I possibly could, without being late. As I’d park my car and walk the familiar sidewalk to the front doors, I’d begin to feel nauseous. It was a low-level nausea if my kids were with me, but full-blown sick-to-my-stomach if they weren’t. I’d go in, avoiding as much eye contact as possible, and find my seat in the back. The sadness would fall upon me almost immediately. In that place, I felt so very divorced. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m divorced. But, if possible, I felt even more divorced when I was there.
It would end and I would bolt, again avoiding eye contact. If my kids were with me, I’d tell them to come out to the car when they were done talking with their friends. And I’d sit and wait in the car, alone. If my kids weren’t with me, I’d simply drive home as soon as I could.
This was my typical Sunday morning experience at my church of nineteen years. This lasted months upon months. And never once did it occur to me that it was not normal to want to cry at church every time you were there. I just thought I had to push through. I just thought it would lift. Or at least, I hoped it would.
To leave was not an option. First of all, I planned to be there until I died (I don’t know where I came up with that). Secondly, we’d already had too much change in our lives. Thirdly, how would I start over, at 42, husband-less, after knowing only one church home for my entire adulthood?
Let me touch on my best guesses as to the why behind my nausea and sadness at this place that I once considered my second home. First, there were memories lurking in every corner. My church and my marriage were inextricably linked…the good parts and the bad parts. Secondly, there were people who disapproved of me. Thirdly, I was no longer involved in any way, after years of being involved in every way. And fourthly, some people – after all that time – still didn’t even know about my situation. One time, very late in my separation, one of the greeters asked me where my better half was. I simply said at home, which was true, and kept walking although my legs felt like they had just fallen off.
I need to state something super-clearly for the record. I think it’s pretty safe to say that I would’ve felt this way at any church that I would have spent my entire marriage in. I am not saying I felt these things because of my specific church; I am saying I felt these things because of my specific circumstances being so bound up in church.
But then the camel’s back broke late last fall, and I just knew I couldn’t stay anymore. This broke my heart in about a thousand pieces, just one more heartbreak that year. I was terrified because I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t know how to do this. I didn’t have a place I was walking towards, any vision of my future; I just knew I couldn’t stay where I had been. Being sad every Sunday morning was not God’s best for me, and I finally grew tired enough of that feeling to do something about it, as scared as I was.
If this post encouraged you, you would benefit from “Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage”, found here or “Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman”, found here.
So, I said some goodbyes, made my best friends sign a literal contract that they’d remain my friends even though I was leaving our church, began trying some churches – alone and scared, and found myself in a room one Saturday night with a pastor saying these words to his tribe, pointing to one person after another, “You are welcome here, you are welcome here, you are welcome here. I don’t know what your baggage is, I don’t care what your circumstances are, you are welcome here, you are welcome here, you are welcome here.” That I didn’t curl up in the fetal position in that moment is beyond me. But I think I knew then, that moment, that first night, I had found my new home. And four months later, after an amazing one-hour conversation with the pastor, and meeting the staff, and communion, and yoga class, and sitting in the same spot, and singing cool songs, and hearing words of deep grace over and over, I heard this, “This girl’s cool,” he said to the rest of them, “she’s one of us.” And I am. And I am accepted. And I am not judged. And I am happy. And I never in a million years expected to feel this way again. But I do. And it’s a gift. And it takes my breath away. And I am grateful beyond words.
Wow you are such a strong women Elisabeth Klein Corcoran God is with you and walking with you every step you make just make sure you keep your head up high and keep the faith I am always saying that to others it helps one thing is to trust the Lord in your walk may God bless you through your your journey.
ah yes, I had the same experience. Very few people in the church reached out to me – once they learned that I had filed for divorce on biblical grounds I was asked to step down from my Bible study leading, women’s ministries leadership etc. In retrospect, even though I had been at that church for 20 years, God was preparing me for another church and a different type of ministry when I was a bit more healed from divorce.
Praise God for your new church and for the people who love you there. I have found the same also in my new church. They are FAMILY>
So happy for you. After being judged harshly this past week by a former “friend” from my former church, and being told she is just going to distance herself from me since she does not agree with my decisions, I feel a tiny bit of the pain of disapproval you have felt from some of the people at your former church. I can’t imagine if it had been as many as have spoken their harsh words to you…. And I, too, have found a new church home, where I am loved and accepted…so blessed.
So very thankful to God that He has lead you to a new true community of believers in Christ…May you grow stronger in Him and in His mighty power…Eph 6:10…knowing our battle is not flesh and blood but the enemy of darkness…Happy for You!!
I so needed to read your words this morning, thank you. I am the pastor myself and I am needing to change how things are in the congregation I lead and as a result one of my congregation members is very upset with me and has become a bully in my life. There is an email from him waiting for me to brave reading it but I am so scared of him hurting me yet again that I don’t know how to do it. So, thank you, thank you, thank you. I feel a tiny bit braver now. My deepest blessings to you and your new church.
Mia-pappi, praying for you whatever your situation is. Fear is a horrible thing.
Elizabeth, I cried when I read this post. I have been dealing with the same sadness for the past 1.5 years. It is not because of my church family but because I feel different than everyone else. I feel I no longer fit in. I too have pulled away from ministry and go with a heavy heart each week. Like you, I leave as soon as possible and cringe when I have to stay longer when I have my children with me. It saddens me that my children have to attend two churches; I feel it only highlights to them the that we are a broken family. Church used to be a place I felt comfortable . . . no more.