The curse/blessing of surviving a high-demand, abusive church is that you start recognizing high-demand groups wherever you go. It seems that no matter where you turn, people are always asking for your time, your money or your first-born son. Apparently, this is an entirely acceptable social norm--especially as it pertains to organized sports. During my sons' baseball season last year, I became increasingly convinced that this high-demand group called "Little League" wanted nothing less than my immortal soul. I had already forked over hundreds of bucks on uniforms, equipment and snacks. And it still wasn't enough. They wanted 24 hours of volunteer time or else our sons wouldn't be allowed to play the following season.
My husband and I started calling it "The Cult of Baseball." And we would have made the sacrifice and the commitment had our boys been totally into it. As it was, we gave our time and money just to watch them hang out in right-field all season.
Not worth it.
I think that's how I've started to feel about attending church. I've spent my whole life giving, giving, giving to the "work of the Lord" only to wind up having full-blown panic attacks in the middle of a sermon.
Not worth it.
On more than one occasion, Little League reminded me of the time and money commitments we'd made to our high-demand church. Giving the best of our time and talents to the church was just as normal for us as sacrificing for Little League is to baseball parents.
The difference, though, is that baseball kids directly benefit from their parents' sacrifice--at the very least they garnered important life-skills and possibly a trophy or two. Whereas, I'm hard-pressed to name one tangible benefit we netted while burning out in the "work of the Lord" (maybe because it wasn't really the Lord's work?).
The one result that remains constant in both these groups is that Mommy ends up being an over-committed, burned out, resentful zombie. I need to figure out a way to mitigate these social/religious groups without sacrificing my sanity. For now, I'm taking a break from church.
And my sons (their own choice!) have decided they don't want to hang out in right-field for another baseball season. THERE IS A GOD! (and His name is not Little League).
I hope my willingness to take care of myself, set healthy boundaries and resist crowd-think is teaching my children important critical thinking skills. It is my unwavering belief that injustice, abuse and unhealthy control continues to flourish in this world because good people keep quiet.
I know I don't always say it the right way. Sometimes I go too far and need to back-pedal. But I'm willing to make those mistakes because I would rather err on the side of speaking out than promote the complicity of silence.
Or the complicity of burn-out.
My new mantra: Just because everyone else is burning out for the sake of __________(fill in the blank), doesn't mean I have to!