I know I know. I was done five years ago when I quit church, religion, and career. But I’ve come to realize that I’m really, really done. I mean it… truly… emphatically… no fooling… probably.
I’ve daydreamed a bit that I would find a way to return. Not as a believer but as a minister who still cares for his people. I imagined going back, reclaiming my pulpit, and preaching a new message where people can find hope in their hearts and each other, rather than in a god who is reported to be loving but has a record indicating otherwise.
But I won’t be going back. Other people have tried. In Acts 7, when Stephen stood before his own people and preached of a new understanding of God, they covered their ears, gnashed their teeth, picked up rocks, and stoned the guy to death. That won’t happen to me because I don’t see being invited to speak to any of my churches again.
I could start one of those atheist churches where people gather to sing, hear lectures, and take up humanist causes. That’s not bad but just walking into one of those places brings back bitter memories of churches with their political bickering and endless efforts of self maintenance rather than ministry. I know groups that do good things and I’m supportive in spirit, but someone else can be the leader because I’m done. Perhaps I can speak and write occasionally for them but that’s it.
I liked doing pastoral work. Actually, I loved doing pastoral work. I liked checking up on the welfare of people. I liked visiting hospitals and nursing homes. I loved hospice work. I liked being called on in times of crisis. I was good at counseling and comforting. I performed funerals that helped families feel better. I’ve not really been able to let those things go.
In fact, these days I call myself a secular pastor and I can do the same work without the religious emphasis. But I can’t do it every day like I did before. I’m still recovering from the three and a half decades of witnessing other people’s sickness, sadness, and crises. So I do a little… the things that crop up with friends, family, and the occasional stranger. But even the little I do costs me emotionally, bringing back the traumas of people I helped in years past.
I’m also glad to be done with all the attention. I’ve been in the public’s eye all my life–first, as a preacher’s kid and then as a preacher myself. I thought I would miss the attention but I really don’t and often I feel relieved to lead a quieter life.
It took me five years to let it all go, sort of. And I’m still in startup regarding the remainder of my professional years. So far it has evolved to where I work as a cashier and a substitute teacher so I can fund my work as a writer. Evolution never stops, so I’ll let you know what happens next.