Sunday, December 17, 2023

Rotten Fruit

I wrote this post in the spring of 2021. I was shell-shocked and reeling from a pandemic that seemed to shake every area of my life and a presidency that seemed antithetical to everything I had been taught to revere but that the American church seemingly could not get enough of. 

It had been a full year of being a part of church leadership during a time when plans could change in an instant and just doing the next right thing was impossible, because truly who knew what the next right thing was? We had been in leadership for the entirety of our marriage (nearly fourteen years at that point) but we could have been in leadership for decades more and nothing could have prepared us for what being in leadership would mean during a pandemic and on-going cultural upheaval. 

I was exhausted and heartsick and angry as hell. It was like living in the Upside Down. Nothing made sense and there was no reprieve. My faith in humanity was shaky at best, but even more painfully, my faith in faith was wildly spinning out of control. I could not reconcile what I had been taught with what I was observing and experiencing firsthand in the broader American church and often in my own community. 

I participated in a writing mentorship as a way to have something for myself, outside of all the chaos I was experiencing daily. But chaos has a way of seeping into every corner, even those you'd hope to have closed off, and that mentorship turned into a sort of extended therapy session. 

And so, during the spring of 2021, I poured out my anger and rage and confusion into these assignments, believing myself to be at the very end of my very frayed rope. 

Oh, sweet, naïve, spring 2021 Emily. In the words of Leslie KnopeYou sophisticated newborn baby.  

When I read The Gift of Anger now, it's hard to believe I wasn't writing about the months that followed the spring of 2021. I look back on it now, 20/20 vision being what it is, and see the almost prophetic nature of what I did not know was coming. I thought I had experienced the worst church life had to offer me, and I hadn't even scratched the surface.

I did not know that a mere two months later I would get a headache that would be unrelenting from May until September.

Or that my body would begin to live in a state of fight-or-flight for so long that even when the the storm subsided I would not be able to live as if it were gone.

That every Friday my body would start to anticipate Sunday morning, the dread building over the course of thirty six hours often culminating in a full blown panic attack.

That I would go to bed at night and think how much easier it would be if I just didn't wake up in the morning. 

That the resulting pain and grief would be so great that I thought I would have to lose everythingmy faith, my community, my relationships—because I simply could not function, could not survive, in the space I was in any longer. 

What do you do with that? I didn't know what to do because what prepares you for that? 

I have been in the church since I was born. I have grown up attending kids church and AWANA and youth group. During all of this time I struggled to fit into what I was told a Christian woman was. The goalposts were always moving, but I still tried so hard. 

And when I failed it was because I couldn't get it right. Because I was wrong. I was the failure. I was too much and not enough and the one who could never get Christian womanhood quite right. 

When I asked my questions about women in the church and the answers were confusing or hurtful or even non-existent, it wasn't because the theology (or the people perpetuating it) was flawed. I was flawed. I believed this even as I struggled against it. 

And then, when I was already battered, the culmination of years and years of screaming into the abyss about the plight of women in the church, came to a head. The bill came due. The thirty-three year harvest begot fruit. 

And it was rotten. 

1 comment:

  1. We - all of us: leaders, men, women, our kids, our spiritual communities - have so much to unlearn. 😢😔