The Separation of Church and State of Mind

I have a curious habit, when I’ve gone beyond my acceptable stress limit, of just lying on the floor.  No pillows, no covers; just me and the floor.  I developed this in college, when I would push myself past exhaustion and go home to lie on the floor and eat bread, butter, and water for the first day or two of vacation.  It worried my mother no end, but it was simple.  There is no effort on the floor.  There are no rules, no posture, no fabric to consider or cushions to maintain.  There is only gravity, inexorably pulling your joints out of the contortions in which stress has placed them; only the acceptance of letting go.

I wrote this on the floor.  It’s not necessarily that I’m beyond stressed; really, I quite love my job and the fact that it is so very busy, mostly because I’m very good at it and I work with some beautifully patient people.  It’s more that I’m a bit lost, and the floor is comforting because (barring an earthquake) it’s not going anywhere.

I’ve been taking a break from my church the past few weeks—what constitutes a break for me, anyway, which I’m aware is seen by others as absolutely no change at all.  A large chunk of stepping back in my world is mental, just like lying on the floor.  I’ve been distancing myself from the goings-on, the rise and ebb of that family, of the expectations I helped create.  I had occasion, a few weeks ago, to meet the person many think me to be and see all that I am expected to do—and I saw only faint outlines of who I “really” am.  I cannot be this person my church family has come to expect; she is utterly unsustainable in the reality of my limits and this new configuration of my time and goals.  If I am truly to take this year as a sabbatical, I must begin with resting from the efforts of church.

It’s not easy, at all.  In fact, I ask your prayers of strength and perseverance to walk this path, Reader, because I have not constructed a way in which it could be easy.  My heart and desire are still with the doings of the Church, this splendid and broken Bride, and my mind runs on the rhythms of that home-in-God’s-home.  I know I’m meant to do so, know that I’m not walking away no matter how many times I am utterly terrified by the gulf between what I hold to be true and what is expected of the new legion of young ministerial types.  But I also know that I need these times when I worship without knowing what comes next, when I truly see the stained glass stories, when no one knows my name and yet someone comes to say hello.

I need this time to be new.

My thoughts are ever with my home congregation, for why would I call it home if I did not, in some sense, belong to it?  But my spirit pulls against the recognition that I hear the words but not the Word, that I pray the prayers as so many polished syllables false as rhinestones, sparkling and empty.  I am tired of defending when there are no attackers, of explaining when there is no interest behind the question, of thinking that I have to do/think/believe/say whatever when all that has truly been asked of me is presence.  I need space in a way that has nothign to do with physics, and as we approach the obligations of fall and the assents I’ve already faithfully and truly given, it is increasingly difficult to find.  I worry, Reader, that I will not be able to do so before the next wave.

So I return to the floor, a move for which my bones will not thank me when I stir to stand.  I return to the floor, and light a single candle, and hope to quiet my mind casting about for the reunion of the One I love and His beloved Spouse, who is so utterly foreign to me all of a sudden.  For where is the line of the prophet refusing to conform and the madman wandering outside the light?


I said, My strength is perished, and my expectation from Yahweh…This I recall to my mind; therefore have I hope.  [It is of] Yahweh’s lovingkindnesses that we are not consumed, because his compassion doesn’t fail.  (Lamentations 3:18, 21-22, WEB)

One thought on “The Separation of Church and State of Mind

  1. Sheila Bigelow says:

    How very, very wise of you to recognize that your current level of involvement may not be sustainable.  For you to serve, your candle needs to last beyond one night.  Love you.



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