The sky was clear but my mind was in a fog as I drove across the plains of northwest Oklahoma. I had just passed my last interview and was headed home. Later in the spring the Bishop would lay his hands on my head during a special worship service and I would be fully ordained in the United Methodist Church. I had worked so hard for this that I should have been happy.
I mean, I was happy. Really. I think.
Okay, I was confused.
I had been a pastor for another more conservative denomination when I transferred to the United Methodist Church. Although I didn’t qualify for full ordination I could still serve at a small congregation while I completed my credentials.
It took nine years
It takes a lot of effort, education, and aggravation to become fully ordained in the United Methodist Church. While I worked full time at the church, I also worked on my Master of Divinity, which is twice the size of most master’s degrees (85 credit hours). Then there’s a three year period of examinations, questionnaires, readings, interviews, and an intense psychological profile.
Many people wash out, but I didn’t stop until I was done.
Like I said, when I was done, I found myself confused. I should have been pleased but I found myself falling into depression. Eventually, I shook it off and focused on my pastoral duties.
But another nine years have gone by now.
Earlier this week, after a leave of absence, I wrote to the Bishop and my District Superintendent and relinquished my hard won credentials.
I didn’t leave because I was hurt or angry. I didn’t leave because the church is full of flawed people. I didn’t leave over the conflicts that threaten to divide the denomination. I didn’t leave because I was failing at the work.
I left because I finally admitted to myself that I don’t believe God exists.
I tried so hard. Life would have been much easier if I just continued to force myself to believe.
But I couldn’t.
I still love the people to whom I ministered. I got angry with them at times but the last thing I ever wanted was to hurt them. I still care for them. I still want to help. I miss them.
I just can’t believe with them.
It has been a long time but the fog is lifting.
6 thoughts on “The Fog is Lifting”
I am so glad that you are sharing this journey with someone – I really feel for you. You remind me of the minister of my Uniting Church here in Australia when I was a child; he was so real, so human and in large part why I even went to church. I don’t know if he remained a believer, but he left to become a parole officer. I have always wondered, because after he left I soon realised that there was nothing keeping me there; that my faith was without substance: it was to the community and the social life that I had become attached. I left the church in my mid teens and found my own way.
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Hi Anne Maree. Thanks. Perhaps we’re all finding out own way.
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Thanks for sharing your story, a very personal journey. I guess we all take journeys like this, maybe not all as profound, certainly not all shared.
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Have you heard of The Litergists Podcast? When I went through my faith deconstruction I was an atheist for a very short time; this group was very helpful in suggesting a different view of God that I hadn’t heard before. Your other blog was helpful for me through that process. I certainly can’t believe in God in the same sense that I used to. I now consider myself a pantheistic Buddhist Christian and see God as the source of all being, the energy that connects everything and the mystery that runs through the cosmos rather than a big invisible person in the sky. The God of Eph 4:6 that i just missed. For the first time in years i can experience God and pray. I wish you continued fulfillment in your journey wherever you go, and believe you will find it in continuing to follow the spark inside yourself, no matter your conclusions.
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I think that there are runners who train for a marathon. Then, the run it. And afterwards, they fall into depression. They crossed the finish line. Their motivation is gone.
I think there are hunters that plan for the hunt; dream of the hunt; and finally travel across the country to track that game, and pull that trigger. No sooner is the trophy mounted in their study, then they need to be planning for the next hunt.
I am a goal-oriented person. I get goals. I even set them. I celebrate crossing my finish lines.
Why, to be honest, I am behind in my garden-work. I had this goal of finishing the remaining 3 sections this winter… but simply did not succeed. So, I will plan, and push, and dig, and…..
But some days, I simply sit on the bench in my hard-won spring garden… and force myself to be aware, and to use each of my five senses: to hear the birds, to see the daffodils, to feel the morning sun on my face, to smell the fragrances of the last tazetta, and to let the taste of juice linger on my tongue.
The tyranny of goals is that we do not truly live while we serve them; we do not truly sense our heart changing while we pursue them.
Instead, we are surprised by the person in the mirror that greets us, after we cross that finish line. We are shocked by the realization that the joy of the hunt is gone.
And I am surprised that I quite enjoy my not-completed-correctly daffodil garden.
And it is all good. It is all OK.
We have changed.
And the changed person is as beautiful as the person that was before.
Hugs, my friend.
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Hugs back. I live your analogies and writing. Yes it is quite common to be depressed after a big goal is reached.