Brian E Pearson
Leaving Church Land
Leaving home is rarely easy. It's why young adults, especially in modern times, hang on so long, living in their parents' basement and drifting from job to job. The world is a daunting place, work is not plentiful, and today's younger generations have almost no hope of replicating the standard of living they knew, growing up.
In my own day, the world was hopeful, there was work and opportunity for all, and I couldn't wait to get out and get started. My first apartment was a complete dump, with cockroaches under the kitchen sink and a bus stop right outside the front window. It made my mother cry. But it was mine. I installed shutters on the windows and wainscotting around the tiny bathroom. I painted the walls and bought a good supply of roach hotels. I was in heaven.
Maybe it was the times, or maybe just my eternally optimistic nature, but launching out seemed easier for me than it ought to have been. Life experience, and my pastoral ministry through the years, has reinforced how difficult leaving home is for many people, for most, perhaps. It can be a kind of dying, letting go of the familiar and reaching out into the dark for the new. One just hopes the hand that reaches back is friendly.
So, as the church fails to provide the sanctuary it once did, its theological retrenchment and superficial piety no longer offering a place for seekers, some of us, who have lived all our lives within its fold, are feeling no choice but to start going it alone. Home, in a sense, has been leaving us.
It might make us angry, it might make us sad. We might find ourselves going through all of Kübler-Ross's stages of death and dying, from denial to acceptance and back again. But in truth, this moment was inevitable. It had to come, just as surely as the chick grows too large for the nest, or the nest too small for the chick.
But the good news is that, by taking that dreadful step out the door, we are greeted by a beckoning path that will lead us to a deeper and richer destination. No longer children, dependent on those older and wiser to guide us, we can begin to experience the freedom of setting our own course and learning our own lessons. In terms of our faith, we become, in effect, our own spiritual directors. Others can offer advice, and share with us stories from their own travels. But ultimately, we each must find our own way.
In the weeks to come, in service to the Unknown Path, I will offer a number of questions to help light our way: What is my Way? What is my Wound? What is my Work?
Next week: What is My Way?