Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Disappearing Church Lady

So last night was a very quiet night for me.

My husband was out of town, my grown children were all busy with either being “out” or working and I was uncharacteristically at home alone with my younger children. Only a month or two ago I would have had at least one or two young people or couples at my house from church. We were almost never alone. Because of church, our home was always full.

Last night was very disconcerting to me. I felt as though I was slowly becoming invisible. Almost like in the Back to the Future movie where the images of his brother and sister were disappearing off his photograph.

I realized that I had not made a friend outside of church for the last 20 years. (I had always said to myself that my job was to train up people who would go out into the world. I was not an evangelistically gifted person so I was there to train up disciples who would.) (Oh My God, did I ever really say that?) (I need to add that to my confession.) Church had always provided me with friendships. I realized that I did not know how to make friends – at all – in the real world. I felt very lonely and afraid.

I was talking to my best friend today. We laughed at how Church Lady – that is how she has always referred to my more "religious side" (that is why she is my best friend)– could actually go to Barnes and Noble’s and join a book club. Church Lady had never done anything like that. Who would I be without my Church Lady persona? Before this, Church Lady was very busy being a Leader. Everyone looked at Church Lady and knew that she was important because of whatever she was leading at that time. Now I am disappearing. The book club at Barnes and Noble’s won’t know that I am Church Lady unless I tell them – and I am certainly not going to tell them. But who am I then?

It is scary. I have no idea who I really am. I can tell you about my kids, my husband, what I do, but to tell you who I am – I have never had to tell anyone that. In the church, they just always told them what I did and that let them know how they needed to relate to me. How can I ask a person outside the church for coffee? Won’t they think that is weird? How do they do it?

I was a Leader. I was Church Lady. Now I am not. Period. Disappearing. Scary.


Anonymous said...

This is a gooood thing. It is unnerving but what a great adventure. You really can be anyone that you want to expectations, no preconceived notions, no strings attached.

I can hardly wait for you to see the real you. I already know her and she's great.

I love You,
Your Best Friend

Anonymous said...

It's been said above, you can be who you want to be. Many people outside of church have no preconceived notions (those of for in church!). You're just starting to find a new you - think of it as an exciting journey - there will be pot holes, but aren't there always?

Erin said...

Hehe this post is soooo me. I used to say I was training up people to go out into the world, too. Can't believe I said that, either.

You'll survive the disappearing church lady, and something different and better will turn up in her place.

Marti G said...

Put me down as yet another who was called to equip all those other people to go out; that's why I wasn't particularly gifted at going out myself. I even have the personality and gifting tests to prove it! Gag.

I also discovered that I had ZERO friends who weren't from our old group. I had been blind to how exclusive I had become over the years. I'm a knitter and spinner now. Not sure why, but I picked it up about nine months after we had left, via my daughters' 4-H club. It clicked with me. I'm not even all that good at it, but it at least gives me something to be.

I still feel very unsure of who I am, uncertain of whether there's much of me beyond what I can do, or who my kids are, or who my husband is, or what I can offer to others. I have far fewer "friends" now, but I have the beginnings of some deep relationships that Father has given me, and they are more real than most I have had through my life.

Erin said...

I wonder if we aren't on to something here with the "equipping others" epidemic. I too took all the giftings tests and determined that (according to the tests) I'm not in the least bit an evangelist or missionary. I wonder if the questions that define those gifts on the tests are the problem. When a test assumes a person must love witnessing to strangers in order to be an evangelist it lets most of us off the hook. We are happy to sit by the side and say we are gifted to equip others.


Barb said...

Best Friend,
I am who I am because you have loved me, thanks

lyn, I'm not afraid of the pot holes - just wish I could know where the road is ;)

Malegra and Erin,
I remember taking those tests way back when Husband was in Seminary. I'm sure they did not see me as evangelistic. But to allow anyone to be so imersed in a church as to not have any friends - at all- outside the walls should have been a clear sign that something was wrong with what was inside the walls.

It also really makes a difference. Before if I were going outside the walls to make friends, I would have been doing it "for" evangelistic purposes. Now I just want to be with people. I can't quite explain it. I've never needed lots of friends although I love activity of people. I just want to befriend a few of the world outside of what I am so used to. I'm sure Jesus will show up with me and in that is evangelism but it is not "for" evangelism for the first time that I have considered it.
Former Leader

Marti G said...

I'm pleasantly surprised as I see how my giftings are expressing themselves when I let go of those four walls that had defined those gifts for so long.

"... should have been a clear sign that something was wrong..." Heh... there were SO many clear signs that I missed! I just can't should on myself like that - I'd be a covered mess!!! ;-)

Mary said...

You said: "Church had always provided me with friendships. I realized that I did not know how to make friends – at all – in the real world. I felt very lonely and afraid."

Yep, that's me. When I first met Jesus, I think that having so many friends through church was a good thing, but then it became the only place I had friends. That wasn't good. It's hard and scary for me to make friends with people in the real world. Being introverted doesn't always help.

It's been over a year and a half, and I'm just starting to feel a little more comfortable. I've had to get rid of a lot of judgments and assumptions about people who aren't in church. They're not as scary as I thought they were. ;')

Anonymous said...

what really hits me with this "epidemic" is that if we were to have any friends on the "outside" it was a project, or part of your "discipline" and then all the joy was taken out of it, all the pressure put on, and the performance button was then pushed. totally unhealthy.
i am finding in my new place of no Christian friends, that my husband and i are the only Christians most of my friends know and have ever known... and it's terrifying, and exciting, and it's a part of me.. not the religious part, all that falls off pretty quick when you make friends on the outside, but the part that is all relationship and Jesus... that sticks.