Metaphorical and literal winter!

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This post is part of my adventure series…click here to make sure you catch the whole series.

To borrow the immortal words of William Shakespeare…..”now is the winter of my discontent.”

Six weeks ago I stepped down from a role that I loved doing. Even though, humanly speaking, I didn’t want to…I decided to step out of my role as  a worship director at my church after three and a half years for four reasons:

  1. to preserve unity in the church;
  2. to submit to my leaders;
  3. to be obedient to God; and
  4. to focus on my family – my primary ministry.

This has been one of the single most difficult and painful decisions of my life. I am the kind of person who loves to serve, I like to be active and to be doing something. It is difficult for me to not be serving in what I perceive to be an active way. But over the past couple of months God has been telling me through a variety of ways that it’s time for me to rest. To take a sabbatical. And I’m not going to lie to you. It’s a struggle. Of the 25 years I have been at my church, I have been a part of the music team for 20 years. And God has told me to REST. I am the kind of person who takes a week to unwind when we go on family holidays…and even then I have “stuff” to do.

To be honest, I guess at one level I got a lot of affirmation from being up front, and you certainly find out who your friends are when you stop attending church regularly and its for a reason other than you’re leaving town. Not one person has called or emailed (without wanting something else)…I have been at the church for 25 years. And yes, it hurts. I feel like an utter failure. It’s a lonely path.  I have followed God and done as I felt I was directed, but I am feeling alone in a human sense. And I  think that God is probably stripping things away that could be taken by my human brain to be attributed to my activity. I have to come to a place where anything that happens can only be through the power of God in my life.

But God is good. Slowly but surely over time He has been showing me that He wants to take me on a journey. I have a chronic case of Mad Church Disease and the next phase of my life is dedicated to healing. I am taking a complete sabbatical from the institutional church to do two things…the first is to go though a phase of restoration, and the second is to go through a phase of reaffirming my foundations. Both of these things are consistent with the biblical concept of the sabbatical, and I’ll be sharing my journey with you as I work though stuff.

When I say complete sabbatical, let me be very clear. I will not be participating in any regular scheduled church service activity. I will not be involved in music ministry, and I won’t be signing up for any other activity. I will be seeking a broader Kingdom view of the Church (sorry for the jargon, I will be blogging more about this in the year ahead) by exploring other arms of the body of Christ. I will not give up meeting with believers. I strongly believe in the value of the Church, but there needs to be a time of separation in order to gain perspective.

My next two posts will cover what I think will be involved in the restoration and reaffirming phases of my sabbatical. I also REALLY want to share with you what God is showing me about Biblical rest. I’ve been a follower of Jesus for 30 years and this is the first I am hearing of this?? Wow!

Now…where does the winter thing come into it? God has been speaking into my life through the guys at Swerve …they posted a series of articles a little while ago about the seasons of ministry. I am in the midst of a period of Winter. There might not be a  whole lot going on above the surface – the branches are barren and the ground is covered in smothering snow, but beneath the snowy ground the roots are straining and growing and forming a solid foundation for the explosion of growth when God decides it’s time for the Spring to come and the harvest to start.

I am currently so discontent with the status quo. I want to know what God has for me…what is there in my life that is just church tradition that has been passed down and absorbed, and what does God really want for me? I MUST know.

This is the winter of my discontent…I am going to find the answers to my questions. I am tired of being so busy doing church that I can’t be the Church. Will you pray for me on my journey? Will you step out and join me on my journey? Do you have any questions about why you believe the stuff you believe about God and the church?

Michelle

If you want to see all of the posts about my adventure click here.

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20 responses to “Metaphorical and literal winter!

  1. will pray as you asked… and will follow your journey with interest… thanks for sharing…

  2. I resonate with what you are saying. It would be nearly 5 years ago when for my own spiritual joiurney, and the call of God, I stepped down from all ministry in church services. This included music and leadership positions.

    God has taken me through a journey of rediscovery of Him, my relationship with God, as well as how he wants to work in the world today.

    It was a time when I needed to focus on BEING not DOING.

    Within the last 12 months I have taken up a brand new way of service, and it is a joy. But I am so grateful for my sabbatical time.

    God is with you – and I too look forward to being with you in your journey

    Bless you

  3. Michelle Neate

    I will be praying for you Mick. I look forward to following your journey and learning from you. Remember to be patient with God he will not reveal which way he wants you to serve Him until you are ready. Its both exciting and scary wondering what He has in mind for us isn’t it? It is also comforting to know we don’t have to worry about it because He knows best.

    I am also sitting back and waiting for God to reveal where the next phase of our life is heading. I used to pray every day that He would take us out of this business then one day I realised that God was telling me that I am where He wants me for now. So now I pray that I can be all He wants me to be in our business and our community. However I would still like not to be in business but it is much easier to be here when I know I am where I am meant to be.

  4. Thank you all so much for your support and prayers. Some Christians get so freaked out when you start asking questions about the fundamentals of our faith. I appreciate your prayers and your grace-giving acceptance.

  5. i am so sorry to hear of the church’s response to your departure. that is one of the most heartbreaking (although sadly common) things. 😦

    i am glad god used the words in the book to touch you and i hope they can serve as part of your journey to health.

    your bravery is inspiring. thank you.

    (ps – lots of nouwen books….) 🙂

    • @ anne jackson WOW! Thank you so much for stopping by and for your words of encouragement! (Anne wrote Mad Chruch Disease ..if you are in any kind of ministry and you haven’t read it yet BUY IT NOW!)

      …when you say nouwen…do you mean Henri Nouwen the writer?

  6. I am echoing so much of your sentiment. I am a military wife and just went through a 8 month deployment where I did not have one church member invite my daughter and I to dinner or anything or that nature and promising mu husband they would – “take good care of me.” This was the first real “test” in my 17 years as a christian where I would have said yes I need to feel the community that I have given to so many. My worship feels hollow and my hear feels sad.

    • Hi robin, I’m sorry this has happened to you. My brother is in the military and I understand the pressures on those left behind to hold the fort. I pray that God would raise someone up to be there for you! God bless your husband this memorial day.

  7. Your winter for me lasted over 20 years, when I lost complete touch with God.

    Wonderfully he came back into my life due to dealing with a major trauma last year where God made his presence known to me when I desperately needed spiritual strength and sucour. He has shown me his love in so many ways that I cannot count.

    New life now beckons, leaving my job to do something to use my skills in a role in my Church which was totally unthinkable a year ago. I am learning and growing daily as new things are revealed – in small ways, through others, which lead onto a path to walk hand in hand with love.

    I am not creative, I don’t have music, art or drama to use – I have my life experience 0f 60 years and a background in HR and Administration in government – I have faith that new skills will come to equip me as I study for the new role.

    Wow describes the excitement that I feel.

    • 20 years God was patient with you! 🙂 I look forward the reinvigoration that you are now experiencing! What an adventure we are on! God bless you as you find your sweet spot of service!

  8. I will pray. Drawing near to the heart of God is a journey that, at times, leads us away from where we are comfortable…. to where God is more beautifully displayed. May we all be drawn by that beckoning voice that whispers through our books and conversations… May we all see where we have been sickened… poisoned… and yet so unaware of our disease…

    • Thank your for your prayers and your words of encouragement Lanelle. You are so right. It IS uncomfortable and painful…but we can’t grow without having our rough edges knocked off 🙂
      It’s such a subtle insidious disease! Time to kick some butt and get well!

  9. Sad to say that I am one of those “friends.” I am sorry to hear how you really feel. I thought you just needed space. I guess that just goes to show that sometimes you just need to ask a question to find out what is really going on. You did a brave thing.

    I can understand how you feel but for another completely different reason. When I went through my divorce people avoided me because they didn’t know how to deal with it. Sometimes it helps just to know that even though they can’t empathise…. they can pray for you, or just have a coffe with you.

    My heart goes out to Michelle and I hope you are blessed through your sabatical in order to bless people though your gift of music/worship leading again.

    I will pray for you (and our church).

    • Oh Sharyn… thank you so much for your words, they really mean a lot to me. You and Pete have been a rock in the storm. Love you guys.

      What doesn’t kill us will make us stronger, yeah?

  10. Hi Michelle,

    Found your blog by accident, but really like the way you thank and comment on each of the comments for your blog. I was just also reading a blog by a Twitter “expert” who also happens to be a big cheese author and NY Times columnist. He writes about how much his “relationships” on Twitter have meant to him, but he never thanks or responds to his readers. He’s full of horse gargle – and you are full of grace.

    Glad I found you.

  11. Hi Michelle, as one of your friends also, i too thought you needed space as i knew of your struggle and frustration. It is true that people don’t know what to say or how to react, sad, yet that’s the fact. I don’t think there is any mallis in it. God is good. He has his plan and you are in it. I pray that you will soon find contentment in Him. Your church does appreciate you more than i think you know. They do miss you when your not there. We have a sense of loss at your not being there. Sad though that you don’t feel anyone cared. I think they do. The church is God’s community, and he died for it, it is a place filled with redeemed yet imperfect people, who like us, are seeking to grow in Jesus. We love you as a sister in Christ, please don’t walk away from those who love you and have been blessed by you, and who have an interest in you. Every blessing.

    • Hi Ken,

      thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read my blog post. I know that there is no malice from either side of the coin and I think that the lack of support from those best positioned to offer it is a symptom of our times. Everyone is too busy. People don’t know where to draw boundaries in their own lives so that they can function the way God intended us to. As a team. A vibrant, supporting team that will lift us when needed and slap us when we need it.

      I am not walking away from the Church, and I am content in Christ, but I don’t think he’s particularly pleased with the way I’ve been doing church rather than being a part of the Church, and that needs to be addressed if I am to serve in any sustainable way. I want to reiterate that I am not bitter about any of this, but I have allowed myself to be hurt and I’m taking steps to recitfy that.

  12. Kindred Spirit

    Whoa. Your story sounds very familiar. Be careful. When we left to take a “sabbatical” nobody seemed to notice either. Six months later, when there had been NO CONTACT from ANYONE in the church, we were asked to take on a leadership position! We were gobsmacked!It left an awful taste in our mouth. In many ways it confirmed the very feeling that led us away in the first place – that we were only noticed and appreciated for the work we could offer, not for ourselves.

    It has been a few years since our departure from that church, one which I had falsely considered my local family. In that time it has been a massive struggle to control feelings of bitterness and rejection. In many ways I have lost all desire to be part of the institutionalised church – but I miss it so much.

    I miss the things that “worked”. I miss belonging to something. I miss feeling a part of God’s work of ministry. I missthe “friends” and “fellowship”.

    Now that a few years have passed I think part of the problem with me was that I was getting older and no longer fit the “target group” of the church: young families. I realised that I had become invisible to the younger members, and worse that my contribution was insignificant because of my age. It is amazing how alienating almost every church I have visited has been toward my age group…and I believe it only gets worse as you get older. We are a culture that worships youth – even in the church.

    I also realised that some of what I enjoyed through years of involvement was “control”. It is easy to mislabel that as “service” sometimes.

    This road is a hard one. Be careful. But know you are not alone. I would love to discuss this further with you over a cuppa sometime. It is a lonely road, but there are fellow travelers.

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