Although such a thing doesn’t happen as much as it used to, whenever my mood takes a significant dip, Captain Paranoia burrows deep into my long-term memory, resurfacing with a handful of mental images I believed were long-forgotten. Stupid things I’ve said or done, mistakes I’ve made, chances I’ve wasted and any number of past regrets. When the Captain returns from the depths, he always says “Do you remember these? You were soooooo stupid back then! What on earth were you thinking?! You want to learn about who you really are? Well there you go. That’s you in a nutshell: complete and total idiot… and once an idiot, always an idiot!”
It’s getting easier to ignore the Captain, but sometimes the painful reminders don’t come from him.
Trying to distance myself from, or come to terms with, my time in the church is still a major hurdle because the triggers are all the more real. I’m still, technically-speaking, a member of the church. I’m still on the electoral roll (not that I’ve been to an AGM in five years), and the Standing Order still goes out every month in my name for tax purposes. Even small things can trigger bad memories – earlier, when I saw a Phatfish CD in a local charity shop, it reminded me of the many times I was required to lead the music group in yet another rendition of This is My Worship. That’s another thing – in my head, I’m well and truly done with the music group, but I’ve never officially left. It just feels like a loose end I don’t want to tie up.
One thing I’ve managed to avoid so far is a face-to-face confrontation. I’ve seen a few members around, and have exchanged a pleasantry or two with them, but there are some members who I hope I never bump into. They will ask the one question I don’t want to be asked: why don’t you come to church any more? In their eyes, I’ve just gotten a little lost and they can help me find my way back to the right path. All it takes is an invitation to the Alpha course… or to Back to Church Sunday… or to one of the more “fun” services… or, better yet, to a social. Something to ease me back onto the path of salvation by showing me that church, and church members, aren’t always dull and dreary.
They assume my faith is intact but my relationship with the church needs a bit of a bandage, and a little pastoral care will soon fix that. It’s not that simple. I’d woken up to realise that my faith was always paper-thin, and I was merely trying to convince others that it wasn’t. My path is no longer the Christian path: they mostly run parallel with each other, and occasionally merge, but I simply cannot let myself sleep-walk through the rest of my life. For me, living equals learning, and you can’t learn anything with a centuries-old book filtering what you see.
Most importantly, though: I’m not going to try and change your path – please don’t try to change mine.