I went to church today. I’m not sure if I would have gone or not, except my children invited me. It was Father’s Day, and my little ones wanted me to be there to listen to them sing a few songs about how much they loved their father. I agreed that it was a good day to attend church.
I also knew that today was the day that I was going to be officially released from my calling as a member of the bishopric. I had mixed feelings about being there for that. I wanted to be there, and I also didn’t really care about being there and would just as soon have stayed home. But my ambivalence was no match for my children’s request. So I went.
And I was glad I did. I sat on the stand, sandwiched in between the bishop and the stake president, and looked out at the many familiar faces in the congregation, and realized that I was going to miss these people. I don’t make friends easily, and these people extended their friendship and their love to me and to my family from the moment we moved into the ward. That love was magnified as I was called into the bishopric, and I have seen their dedication to what they believed, their service to one another, and their sacrifices from a perspective that few in the ward get to see at any given time.
I appreciated that. And I thought it fitting, as I was sitting there, that they get to participate in a little more of that as I was released. That they get to see me, that after the meeting they get to shake my hand and look me in the eye. There were a few awkward moments, yes, but they deserved even that from me today.
The man called to take my place is someone I have utmost respect for. He is a true Christian, loving and serving those around him in a way that has always amazed and impressed me. I thought about him and how it appears that his membership in the church has strengthened him as an individual. I think that he has grown beyond what he would be if he didn’t have the church in his life.
And I realized, too, that the same could be said of me. I’m not naturally an outgoing, friendly person. But because of the callings that I’ve held in the church, particularly the callings I’ve had in the bishopric, I have had to stretch beyond what I normally am, and reach out to those around me in ways that I probably wouldn’t have ever done without the impetus of the church and the callings I’ve accepted and tried to fulfill. That’s a good thing.
Now as I contemplate leaving the church, I see that I will lose things that are important to me. Friendships that came almost by default just by being a member of a particular ward. Opportunities to be more than I am, to stretch and grow. I will miss those things.
I can’t personally continue to support and believe in an organization that is built upon lies just because there are good things about it, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t good things about it. I withdraw from the church because I must, but in doing so I do not make myself an enemy of the church. I recognize that, in this world where nobody knows the truth and where you have to believe something, it’s as good a lie as any other, perhaps even better than most.
For me, though, my journey is taking me other places now. I am officially released from my calling, and I don’t intend to accept another one. The one thing that bothers me, and it’s just a tiny little insignificant nothing of a bother, is that instead of not being a member, I am now an inactive member of the church. That is a compromise that I have accepted, but it does itch just a little.