I wonder how many of them can tell I’m lying, I think to myself as I lie through my teeth. I talk about how I’m here at this class, in this church, because I needed a change of pace, that my old church was getting too large and I had a difficult time getting plugged in.
It’s just not true, and I feel a little pained at having to paint a picture of my church that isn’t accurate. The truth is, I did feel plugged in. I was growing a lot from being a part of that church and I felt like I had found a home. I even became a member years ago, because I wanted to be an owner-operator of a place that was much bigger than me that was really making a difference in Richmond.
The people at my table smile and nod knowingly, some having had that exact experience of being “invisible in the crowd” at their old churches. Which is why this lie is so terrible, because it could easily be real and this makes people relate to it.
The greatest lies have a grain of truth to them. I had had whisperings in my mind, doubting that my church had the structure in place to accommodate so many people so fast and bring people into an authentic community. It was never enough of a doubt to make me leave the church altogether, but that is the grain of truth I latched onto when we were made to answer the question in our groups: “Why are you here?”
As the kind faces turn to the next person to share, my conscience causes me to break out in a cold sweat and I feel at once utterly misunderstood due to my own false portrayal of my situation. I’m such a poser.
The real reason for my abrupt church move is much more emotional and much more painful than I feel I could get into in such a short amount of time on a Sunday morning (when people are supposed to be happy!). This is the reason I lied – and maybe it’s just a shoddy justification for my lack of honesty: I didn’t have the strength to go into it.
It’s all because he goes there. Still. After all the misery he put me through, now he’s set himself up at my church. Yes, my church, that I’d been going to for years before I brought him there with me, my safe space.
I remember the year I became a member. I so wanted him to go to the class with me and make it something we could do together to grow as Christians and be more settled into a community. He came up with several different reasons to decline each time I asked, and eventually I just went by myself, tired and frustrated with his indecisiveness and lack of enthusiasm (which later became one of the reasons for the break-up).
But we’d joined a small group together, met some friends, learned about the Bible together, and I’d felt like we were becoming part of something larger than just the two of us – and I loved it.
He did not.
He complained about any flaw that he saw in the people in our group. He did not have the genuine joy that learning about God should bring. It wasn’t real for him. And I’m just now realizing this after having been fooled for three years about his true feelings on the subject.
I wanted him to love it. I wanted him to love his faith and being part of a community as much as I did, for the same reasons I did. I wanted that for him so badly that I started to believe that he did love it, but in a way that wasn’t as expressive as mine. Now I know I was just deceiving myself, just as I’m now deceiving the people at my table with a lame excuse for leaving such a wonderful church.
And that, my friends, is the true reason I’m here today, trying to muster the courage and energy to get re-plugged in to an entirely new community. Because the man who caused my dreams to shatter in front of my eyes and my heart to break in an excruciatingly painful way has placed himself in the center of the one thing I thought I could salvage from our relationship – at least I have my church community to fall back on – and I need to distance myself as far as possible from him.