I am grieving.
Anger, doubt, fear, and sadness wash over me like waves on the rocky shore. It catches me off guard, throwing off my hours and days. It consumes me at times. Other times it brings nostalgia. I’m working on the acceptance part of the grief cycle. After all, it’s been months, years. Still, I grieve.
No one can tell you how to grieve, and no one can tell you what to grieve. We grieve when there is loss, separation, death. We grieve when we are heartbroken, left with holes in our chests and gaping wounds in our souls. We grieve… and we try to heal.
I might be grieving right now, but I want to heal. I want to get better, to not be sad and angry and cynical anymore.
I’m tired of grieving over church.
It might sound silly, but I do. I grieve the loss of my evangelical roots. I can’t help it. The church was such a part of my identity. It was something I loved truly. I devoted years of my life to it, poured my creativity into it. I spent time, talents, and treasures in the church with everything from preaching to teaching small groups to praying to leading music. I grieve the loss of all that.
I can’t be the only one who grieves. I can’t be the only one who gets nostalgic for younger days, brighter days, days when somethings seemed simpler. I can’t be the only one who wonders about going back. I can’t be the only one who gets angry as well, who feels used up and abused.
How do we process these feelings, these thoughts? How do we express the anger, the sadness, the fear in healthy ways, ways that lead to healing?
When I have a broken heart, I often seek solace in art, specifically music. There is something comforting about sad songs about love when your heart is broken by a relationship. There is something cathartic about music that fits the heartbreak.
Where are the sad songs about church?
Where are the songs lamenting the loss of our spiritual roots? Where are the songs that tell the story of church breaking our hearts? Where are the songs about the grief and anger and loss and just plain sadness at the loss of church from our lives, our hearts, our identity? Singing sad or even angry songs about grief is something woven into our culture, so why aren’t we singing sad songs about church?
Maybe we don’t know how. I mean in church we learned that songs about church and God need to be victorious, upbeat, happy. Maybe all that singing about “victory in Jesus” has made us afraid to write a sad song about church, as if it is some taboo or something.
Maybe we don’t realize that church actual did break our heart. Maybe we are still in denial, convincing ourselves that we are simply being spiritual without being religious. But there is deep wound here, things that some of us need professional therapy to address, get over, find healing from. This is not something as simple as not going to a building on Sundays to sing songs and listen to a lecture. This is something to do with what it means for us to love God, be a Christian, believe. For some of us, this is about a core identity that we built around church and theology. Now it’s gone. We’ve been hurt by this church that we sought to give us a sense of identity. We’ve changed our opinions and views and are no longer welcome where we once thought of as home. We can’t just sit by and let the abuse of power continue its work in the hearts and minds of friends and family, let alone ourselves.
This is serious shit.
So where are the sad songs about this? Where are the support groups for church grief? How does one feel ok about weeping over the loss of spiritual roots? How do we grieve well for this thing that once was so alive to us but now lies cold, dead, with the final nail in the coffin?
I don’t have an answer for you.
I’m still trying to figure it out myself. I do know that finding a new faith tradition, a new church, to be a part of isn’t some balm that I thought it would be for my heart. It hurts. It makes me miss the evangelical world I grew up in, even with all its weirdness. It makes me feel out of place, tribeless, lost. It makes me angry that I couldn’t grow old in the same tradition I grew up in.
Too much has changed for me to go back. There are too many hurts that were left unaddressed. There are too many questions left unanswered. So I can’t go back, I can only move forward into… I don’t know what.
This is the hardest part of the grief cycle for me. Moving into an unknown future, a future without the church of my youth propping up my identity. I don’t know what a churchless life looks like. I don’t know what it means to be a believer but not an evangelical.
I know to some people this probably just sounds like unresolved angst, but this is real to me. My heart, my spirit, my faith have all become shaky, uncertain, shifting. I don’t know what that means for my future with God. I believe we are created for community, but I have left the community that I knew and no one came looking for me. So I am left wandering and wondering if it is even worth it to start over, to try and plant new roots, to invest more time, talent, and treasure into another church tradition.
It sounds exhausting.
For now, I want to grieve. I don’t know how to navigate the future, and that is ok. Right now, I need to navigate the sadness, the anger, the cynicism that still resounds in my heart.
I still wish there were some sad songs about church to keep me company in my grief.