I thought that being faithful was about becoming someone other than who I was…I thought that it meant ignoring my own needs… I thought that it meant always trying harder… -Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church
In the beginning of the book, Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor tells us that she has always known God as a Divine Presence that she felt most connected to in nature.
It seemed an effortless connection, but she didn’t have words for this Presence until she began to hear people talk about God.
Because, as she said, she wanted to be close to God always, she decided to major in religion in college, and then, go to seminary. She was following God all the way into a career, and eventually, she was ordained as an Episcopal priest.
These stories are about the phase she describes as “finding herself.” Two more book sections follow, one about losing herself and the final one, about finding herself again. She says that we go through each of those stages in our lives, again and again.
In the stories about losing herself, she says a lot that I can relate to about busyness and wanting to help. But, they both led her away from her connections, both with God and with herself, as she took on more and more, and kept saying yes.
Her busyness seemed to be about trying to do enough, trying to help everyone she could. It was hard for her to let go of that in order to get the rest she needed.
I think the part I can relate to is how hard it was to let go of it, but for me, it has always been about being enough, or becoming enough, rather than doing. There seemed to be virtue on offer, just in the trying, in the busyness, itself, because of the possibility of getting there someday.
Eventually, I realized that I wasn't actually getting anywhere, except farther away from myself, and she seemed to have a similar realization.
In the final section, she describes the road back to herself and to peace, but I was left wanting to know more about where she was with God at the end. Her faith had changed along the way, had shifted, but to what?
Most of it is really great writing, but I felt like it ended in a kind of vague place. Maybe that was a reflection of an unresolved time, or a resolution still in progress.
I loved learning the story of her journey of faith, in general, though.
What do you think? Is it the kind of book that would interest you?
And can you relate to her idea of the three phases in life: finding yourself, losing yourself and finding yourself again? That could make a great slow faith journaling question, especially if you felt inspired to look for memories of those stages at work in your own faith journey.
See you tomorrow!