I am fickle. I am also dramatic. The combination of the two often leads me to make inane decisions and impulsive choices.
That’s the reason I took four full months to make the decision to leave the church that I founded eight years ago. The Mercy House has provided my identity for almost a full decade now: serving and shepherding and living life alongside the most creative, missional, loving community of people I could ever hope for. The Sunday morning gathering was often the last thing we worried about in leadership meetings because everyone was so busy with ministry throughout the rest of the week. In short, I had the easiest job any pastor could hope for.
But my time had been coming. For the last couple of years, I’ve journaled about a longing to write full-time. Book ideas were written down but never spoken aloud. New endeavors were silently hoped for as an introverted side began to emerge–much to the surprise of my extroverted, church-planting, social butterfly self of old. Those thoughts were always deemed foolish, selfish, childish or, at the very least, something to get to later.
But for the last four months, I’ve considered the leaving that just happened this last Sunday. “More than a season” is what I knew I needed if I were going to be able to trust my instincts. And for four full months, I wrestled silently and maintained a steady resolve that it was time for me to go. The church was in great shape, new leadership was ready (and desiring) to take over. The exit would be seamless.
Then came the last two months of notice I gave the church. The date that I would leave my post, March 4, was coming up. From the outset, everyone was so supportive. “We’re so excited for you. We love you. We support you. Can’t wait to see what God has for you in this new phase of life.” Those were the statements from all corners of the church community coming in the form of cards, e-mails, phone calls, and meals together. It was echoed this last Sunday when I felt the love and support of a community telling me it was my turn to step out and follow a calling that God had for me, even if it took me away.
Then came the fear. Yes, the fear. I knew it would come. I told those closest to me to expect it. They would ask, “How are you doing with everything?” I would respond, “I’m excited about this new step, but I know I won’t always feel that way.” Why? Because the fear always comes.
Forty-eight hours ago, I was giddy with excitement to finally be able to write about long-held ideas. In fact, I recently read through an old journal from five years ago. On a trip to Ireland, I’d marked the exact same “Write This Someday” list that I still have today. But now everything feels different. It’s hard not to cave to the fear.
I’m sure you know the questions:
What have I done?
Did I make the right move?
Even worse are the statements:
No one will care what you do next.
Nice job. You just abandoned any platform or influence you have.
It was all enough to make me wonder if I could secretly run in on my last Sunday and declare, “Just joking!” Could I get my job back? Can I take a mulligan? While I knew that was silly, I also wondered whether I should start looking for another ministry job or even a “regular job.” Never mind that I had built up enough freelance work to write full-time in the first place (so it’s not a total faith-filled leap with me at a desk in a cabin in some woodlands wondering where I’ll find my next meal), I just know that I am scared of it all.
Quick aside: This is nothing new for me. I once went away for a four day monastic retreat to pray, write, and create some space in my life. I fled after ninety minutes. (I wrote about it here at the RR about four years ago.)
For the first time since I can remember, I now have space. For the first time, I will have the room to chase all of the goals I say that I’ve held.
For the first time, I have to follow through.
I am always so inspired when the rest of you follow through. I read posts about a man writing songs about being an astronaut and know that I have my own ship waiting for me to board. The songwriters, poets, authors and creators here of all types have been a source of inspiration for me since the outset of the Rabbit Room, but only to the point where I nodded my head and thought, “Someday.” Now that I’m past the point of excuse, I find that I don’t want to do this after all.
Only I know that I do. Today is the first day of my new life, and here I sit: coffee in my Rabbit Room mug, The Murph is in the printer (my weird cat who oddly sleeps inside the printer tray anytime I write), laptop ready. Suddenly I don’t want to be here.
I know enough to know that we often don’t want to be in the place where obedience becomes necessary. I also know this is where I am supposed to be. At this point all I can do is trust and hope the things that I write find their own platform. And even if they don’t, I have a feeling that it wouldn’t be the worst thing if they end up as text files on a hard drive on some old computer. The point here is about the journey and I suppose it’s time I start my next one.
Matt Conner is a freelance writer and music journalist. As the founding pastor of The Mercy House, he led a church community for more than six years in intense community development across racial and socio-economic lines. As a writer, he’s interviewed thousands of musicians for multiple print and web-based publications.