We played hooky from church for the first time last Sunday. For fourteen years we watched other families take breaks on a regular basis, heading out for hikes or to the lake—going skiing, or just getting some stuff done around the house. And each time a family would text us with, “Staying an extra night in the mountains!” we’d both look at each other with the same though bubble, That must be so nice.
And so four weeks after our last Sunday as pastor and family, we thought it was time to play hooky from church, too. We wanted to see what all the fun was about. We wanted to explore the great, big, huge world that exists on Sunday mornings.
You can only imagine the enormity of our expectations—a height from which we fell, hard.
A friend called the following Tuesday and asked how everything was going. “It’s fine,” I said. “We tried skipping church for the first time Sunday and it was an epic fail. I thought we were hiking, but Nathan thought we were walking on the beach. I didn’t wear the right clothing for the beach, and so an hour and a half into our walk—which was really me, sitting on a log, huddled beneath jackets, watching everyone walk up the coast—I wanted to go home. This frustrated Nathan, who just wanted some time outside. And somehow we ended up arguing about the quality of our marriage—the whole way home.”
There was quietness on the other end of the phone, followed by a question I needed to hear, “Why would you take a break from God? That’s the opposite of who you guys are.”
And I knew she was right.
The most difficult part of this decision to leave local church ministry and move has been the nagging feeling that we’ve divorced God. We both know that’s not true, but when your relationship with Jesus is welded to your identity in church leadership, to leave one is to feel as though you’re leaving both. It’s painful. It’s lonely. It’s uncharted waters and we both feel lost.
So now that we know the world isn’t some magical place of secret fun between the hours of 8-12 on Sunday mornings, I suppose we’ll continue rediscovering ourselves in the context of community. This sounds much safer and wiser than going for a hike and discovering you might need counseling.