Triggered: Church Diaries

Symbols I'm Pondering: Why go to worship when it hurts?

I got triggered at church today. At the church where I’ve been worshipping it was confirmation & baccalaureate Sunday. Which I imagine I would have known if I had gone either of the last two weeks, and then I could have avoided this Sunday.

Why do I keep going to church when I get triggered by being in worship? Catch-22: I feel the need to be at worship for spiritual nourishment yet every time I attend a worship service something about being in worship triggers anxiety and grief and pain. Sometimes about not being where I want to be spiritually (deeply connected to Spirit), and sometimes about not being a congregational pastor any more, or ever again.

Yes, I may lead worship or assist at a church from time to time, but that is not the same as journeying with a congregation, trying new things in worship together, or helping them celebrate things like confirmation and graduations where you’ve been a part of people’s lives through the process. It is clear to me now that I’ve been called away from being a congregational pastor because my mental and physical health demands it. The job triggers both mania and depression, and I need stability. It demands hours I cannot uphold with my back’s chronic pain, nor if I want to be there for my family.

So today in worship it was painful to be reminded that I’ve been called away from something I love so much, to know I cannot do it anymore, mentally, physically. Not just that there’s a prohibition or something. And the events reminded me of all the confirmations I have been a part of, and even baccalaureates (messy and painful as those were! Ask me sometime).

I should have left when I saw the masthead on the bulletin that said confirmation and baccalaureate since anticipating it was enough to trigger the heaviness of soul. I should have left after the sermon before it started, or any number of times during the service, but I told myself it was an hour and I might get something – a feeling of God’s presence – if I stayed. I perceived some folks having a moment, but it was an act for me, a long, dry moment.

On the ride home the heaviness and pain were just bearable enough that I wasn’t a danger to myself and others. I hoped writing out the blog post would help the pain go away so I wouldn’t end up with thoughts of hurting myself. Writing helped a little yet mostly I just feel the pain next to me, and feel detached inside, instead of re-filled and whole, the way I feel after processing pain. I know I’m not done processing the pain of moving on from congregational pastoring. And I still need things like worship to help nourish the spiritual life that is important to me, and a big part of who I am. But it causes this hurt.

Now on to something else to distract me.

3 responses to “Triggered: Church Diaries

  1. Yesterday the only thing I could say about #unco11 was that it made me feel broken. And then I remembered that a broken and contrite heart is a sacrifice to God:

    My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)

    It is my prayer for you. You sacrificed yourself this morning. Now find some rest. And have a cupcake.


  2. I hadn’t thought of the image of sacrifice. An interesting and surprising way to look at it. Thank you!

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