“Jill, We Need to Talk.” Norm Willis
You can get to where you want to be from wherever you are—but you must stop spending so much time noticing and talking about what you do not like about where you are. ~ Abraham Hicks
I remember years ago, as I was attending Christ Church Kirkland (CCK), I would be driving to church or work or to a church event, and time seemed to slow down. Repeatedly this kept happening. I would come to a stop sign or light, and look over at other people in their cars and think, “I wonder where they are going and I bet they don’t feel like they are in prison in their own life. They probably laugh a lot more than I do.” I continually observed wherever I went how people outside of my church circle seemed to be enjoying their lives. They looked like they were having fun. I imagined they were purposefully creating their lives, not allowing others to decide it for them.
This feeling heavily lingered in my consciousness for a year. Everywhere I went. It became more and more oppressive. The oppression gradually got thicker in my life because I knew that I wasn’t creating a life I wanted. I was bombarded with following a life that was set out for me by church leaders and the church community. They weren’t forcing me with physical abuse to follow them and be in their club. They weren’t even telling me that I would die out there in the real world. They weren’t sabotaging my life so that I would stay in their fold. No, it was much more subtle than that. From the pulpit came messages of guilt, shame, and fear. I remember several times on a Sunday morning my pastor talking about a family who had left our church and in so many words he would say they are out of God’s will. It was always their fault for leaving (as if people can’t come and go as they please). The pastors of our church always had a way of exonerating themselves in any relational conflict that a congregation member had with the church. The blame was always put on those that left. They would say that those who left were not a “son” or “daughter” of “the house”. “The House” meaning Christ Church Kirkland. As if “The House” was literally the ONLY place God ate, slept, pooped and visited with guests.
Those words never really affected me at that time. I remember thinking it didn’t feel good to hear him shower fear into every person sitting in the congregation, but I wasn’t affected by it…I was still in the fold. It wasn’t until I decided to leave that I felt those words come alive.
I still remember that day nearly 9 years ago, December 26, 2009. Three months before my leaving, I had intentionally chosen to be reunited with my family after years of pushing them away because they weren’t members of Christ Church Kirkland, “The House”. So, the day after Christmas, my dad got up early with me and we drove into town to a local Starbucks where I could get internet connection and send my final goodbye via email. I had resolve to once and for all, relinquish my so-called “daughtership” of CCK and be the daughter I was born to be to my mom and dad. I resolved that I would no longer let someone else tell me how to create my life. I decided that all the years I relinquished my power to others, was a slap in the face to God, who gave me my spirit, my intuition, to follow. I was determined to find out who Jill really was without the training wheels of church dogma.
As I formulated my “goodbye” email, I still had a hint of fear of leaving. As Norm Willis had said in years past if someone left CCK, it was like a divorce. As if a divorce was going to send someone to hell. My dad helped me edit my email and he advised me to take out all the emotional stuff and to simply say thank you and goodbye. When I pushed send on that email, there was an immediate weight that lifted from my chest. A weight that was bearing down on me for nearly 2 years. A weight that consisted of confusion, depression, sickness, oppression, people-pleasing, and going against my intuition thousands of times…all for the sake of belonging to that particular church, The House. With tears in our eyes, my dad hugged me and told me he was proud of me. I predicted to him that I would hear back from Norm within a few hours. And sure enough I did. I wasn’t ready for how blatant and pompous his response would be though. Below is a copy of the email I received from Norm Willis.
The next morning would be Sunday and I was no longer attending CCK. A place I called home for 12 years. A place that contained 90% of my friendships. A place I drove back and forth to several times a week and spent thousands of hours. A place that brought many moments of joy, but far more moments in heartache and confusion. A place where I tithed 10% of my monthly income. A place I was taught, and believed for years, was exclusively for God’s chosen children. A place that I had given thousands of hours of my life to serve.
It was 10:15 am on a Sunday morning, December 27th 2009, and in the quietness of my Kirkland condo, I started making phone calls. I knew the friends I was calling would be at “The House” (CCK) so I left voice mails for them regarding my exodus. I didn’t go into detail because that was now my business and I could share it with whomever I wanted, not everyone. I let them know that I was no longer attending CCK and that I loved them but I was choosing to move on.
You may wonder why I didn’t meet with any of these people face to face to let them know. Well, I knew in my gut that wasn’t going to be the path with the least resistance. I knew that each one of them would try to convince me to stay, and if not convince me to stay then they would have to “divorce” me. There would be tears and conversation that I didn’t want to have anymore. I was done crying. I was done talking about the same injustices of CCK that we had all talked about for years. I was done being herded. I was done following someone else’s direction for my life. I knew that my only route was to completely cut all ties. And the clearest sign of that was how my physical body felt when I said goodbye to Norm and my friends.
The day I left Christ Church Kirkland, was the day I was truly born again. It was a day of reckoning with the truth that I get to decide what my life looks like. From that day forward, I have chosen to live a life of least resistance. I am rewiring my brain to listen to my intuition, my spirit, not the doctrine and influence of the church or others. From the moment I deliberately chose to turn inward, and follow that still small voice within, was the moment I discovered what it means to FOLLOW MY BLISS.