It’s hard being on the outside looking in sometimes. I have never regretted my decision to leave, but there are days when I see someone, hear something, or come across a picture that makes me realize just how different things are and, probably more than that, brings back the old longing to finally be accepted there, and knowing it won’t ever happen.
Today I came across some event pictures. I didn’t recognize most of the people in the pictures, but did see some familiar faces. Seeing them, wishing not that I could go back but rather that somehow I could still be a part of things even though I left. Shunning is one of the most difficult parts of leaving, and after several years it still hurts at times. Even though I wasn’t really shunned the last few times I saw them, still when I see pictures of things I wasn’t invited to and didn’t know about, see kids growing up, or hearing about someone that I cared for makes me feel left out and cut off. As though I’m standing on one side of a glass looking at them, but them on the other side. Seeing them, but knowing that glass will remain in place, knowing I can’t be close to them as long as I choose as I have and do, and that they may not even know or care that I’m there.
Shunning is difficult. The concept behind it, behind not talking to those who leave anymore, not being friendly toward them, is to “reach” them. The thought is that if the person is left to themselves they will get lonely or face difficulty and return. It didn’t work for me… actually the opposite was true. Perhaps it was the reasons I left that made some difference. If I’d been shunned for wrongdoing, that might have been different. However, I wasn’t shunned because I did wrong. I was shunned because I chose to do right… and because in order to do that without definite reprisal I had to leave that church.
Maybe it’s because of why I left that shunning didn’t work for me. I saw their shunning as a final statement, almost as though they shouted, “Go to hell!” They believed I would be lost because I left their church. Few made an attempt to reach out to me. My guess is that fear and embarrassment were more the reason for that than lack of concern. Still, it came across strongly as something more.
Shunning has been somewhat reciprocated. I knew I would be shunned and knew people could face their own consequences if they didn’t shun me. Edwin Young could be cruel, and as a well respected and definitely feared leader, his cruelty could have far reaching and long lasting affects. For that reason I didn’t reach out to those still there. I didn’t want my decision to leave to hurt them. However, I was also there long enough to know that when I left, the empty place I left would soon be covered-I would not be missed and would soon be more or less forgotten in the busy-ness of life at Faith Tabernacle. And when one that was closest to me turned her back on me in the store, I stopped hoping things might be different. As time went on, shunning became more of an oddity to me, something that was definitely wrong. Years later, I faced panic attacks because a friend was leaving a new church I was attending. Someone lightly said, “It’s not like you’ll lose them as a friend just because they leave here!” I realized then just how negatively shunning had affected me, and how ludicrous it was for a church to do such a thing to someone who simply left.
Still, I missed them and I miss them sometimes still. I wish I could still be involved in some things, could still see people I once knew, could at least know that they are ok. Maybe they wish the same of me. But we stand as it were on opposite sides of a thick glass that neither I nor they are willing to step around.