Time to hit pause on the story and be real.
When I set out to tell my story, I wanted to take a course winding lazily through college and ministry, peeking in on vignettes cataloguing my awakening to the tradition of my youth followed by the one which would eventually take up the baton of my faith. I wanted to talk about the successes and abject failures in my life that caused doors to shut and horizons to open as I began a recasting of what it means to pursue the Divine in the midst of a real life. I wanted it this way because it would take a long time to write, supplying blog fodder for months to come. And because I’m addicted to context. Also, if I’m honest, I was hoping this would provide enough time for the “ending” to have worked itself out. But lives don’t work like that.
Often, the story ends without a resolution. Not with “happily ever after,” but with tear; with a sharp cut to black halfway through “Don’t Stop Believing” instead of a gentle denouement. And it doesn’t seem to matter whether we love God or not. For people on both sides of faith, if we pick any moment out of our lives, we’re as likely to find a “darkness is my closest friend” (Ps 88:18) moment as a “He rescued me because he delighted in me” (18:19).
These days are definitely the former.
At some point, we’ll get into the full story of why my family is in Bloomington, IN, but the short of it is we were fired from our campus ministry by men fearful of their God. Of course, they wouldn’t talk about it that way. They’d say they were protecting students from dangerous beliefs that could put souls in jeopardy, or cause the potential collapse of the ministry; that they were executing their role as protectors and leaders of the organization. They would say (and have said) that the severance package we were provided was generous and therefore fulfilled their duty toward my family, that whatever happened after December 31, 2016 was no longer connected with their decisions. That this more than compensated for their request that I “leave quietly” without explaining their actions to the students. They would say they have set everyone on a path toward God’s will for their lives.
They would say a lot of things.
But it’s what their words have blinded them from seeing the true effects of their decisions.
For obvious reasons, they don’t see the students who no longer attend their gatherings. The young men and women who had participated in our ministry as a last effort at spiritual community, who have either given up on faith entirely, or are barely holding onto the thinnest sliver. Nor those who will now never be part because their personhood would not be recognized.
They don’t see my parents utterly lost for words, desperately wishing and yet not knowing how to comfort their children in the midst of such nonsensical pain.
They don’t see my wife’s quiet tears in church. Or how her own dreams have been put on hold while we try to simply survive.
Or the near daily occurrence of my young son’s sudden, violent rages. Or how he dissolves into sobs, grieving the loss of his friends, school, and church community. Of his pleas and bargaining to move back. Of my helpless numbness as I hold him, vaguely apologizing, unable to summon any more tears to weep with him.
They don’t see me in the cool dark before dawn while my family sleeps, wondering if I can summon the energy to face another day. Or the ineffectual curses levied toward them as I drive to a job I care little for. Of the frantic moments when I feel as though my head and chest would burst with the sheer hopelessness and injustice of it all.
As my friends’ podcast titled it, this is indeed “what it looks like to be screwed by the church.” There is no happy ending, no bright future that we can see. Only the pain of being evicted from a life we loved .