This week, I got to catch up with an old friend. We have a weirdly speckled history, having met in the late 90’s, and then a few encounters over the middle years until the last couple years, when it has been sporadic, though more frequent. Amongst the reasons I appreciate him is the nebulous experience of “getting it.” We grew up in the same denomination and we both left it. I imagine it’s like when expatriots meet in foreign lands and connect (at least initially) because they have a shared experience of having come from a different land than the one they currently inhabit. While we were talking, he asked if I missed it. At the time, I hadn’t considered it much. In truth, the things I miss are both comforting and scary at the same time:
* I occasionally miss singing the songs I grew up with – even the ones I hate.
* I miss knowing who and what everyone at church is talking about.
* I miss knowing that it will only be a few months until I see people I love at regional events. Now, I’m certain I won’t see many again at all.
* I miss not being encompassed by such a complete subculture while simultaneously celebrating being out of it.
* I miss that part of my identity/culture. It was who I was for 33 years.
But all those things, as significant as they are, don’t make me regret leaving. I’m sad that my experience ended like it did, but I’m glad I chose to end it. It was the right decision.
I’ve had great support from my friends still deeply a part of it, and I love them even more for their ability to stick with me. This friend holds a different place in my heart, in part because of his willingness to empathize, to listen. He is proof that there is life and happiness on the outside. And that, my friends, is a hope and truth that outshines the darkness that comes with missing what I left behind.