Our cat is getting old. She may be living on borrowed time. She’s had a couple of vet visits and although she is stable again we are definitely keeping an eye on things. She’s been with us for 14 years. Before we had pets we talked about how much we were willing to spend in vet bills. I know people who have spent thousands of dollars on animal health. Pets are expensive. It can creep up on you and no one wants to pull the plug on Fluffy. Our cat is on a budget. One we put in place long before she worked her way into our hearts to the extent my husband would refinance the house to keep her alive.
Making a decision to end the life of a pet is difficult. In fact, decisions to end most things can bring us to a halt. We prefer to keep going. Prolonging the inevitable and suffering with our inability to act. It is always easier to start things than it is to finish them. Beginnings are shiny and new, full of optimism and excitement. You can find people who are willing to join in and start something. But ending? No one wants to be a quitter. Or be judged as lacking commitment. It’s why having an exit strategy at the beginning of a commitment is often a good idea.
On yesterday’s blog post I talked about how hard it is to leave a faith community. It’s easy to join. Not many people join with an ending in mind. Church membership is like a vow we take. We know that leaving will make us an outsider. At my last church I joked that when they started a kid’s sermon I was out of there. Not that I dislike small children but I had experienced too many lame and overly long kid’s sermons in my life. And I was kind of serious about that comment.
I realize no organization is perfect. It’s why so many churches have adopted the word ‘messy’ to describe their community. I don’t expect to agree with everything that is happening in any relationship. It doesn’t have to always go my way. But churches are fluid. They change and you change and what once felt great might no longer feel as life-giving. So many of us stay even though we are miserable and unhappy it might be a worthwhile exercise thinking about your decision to leave when things are good.
Here’s some areas you might want to consider:
- What values do you want to see honored in this community?
- What beliefs do you no longer agree with?
- What practices are important and non-negotiable to you?
- How much time and money are you willing to invest in the well-being of this community?
- What is a deal-breaker for you?
- How will you discern when it is time to leave?
- Is there something you are ignoring that doesn’t feel healthy to you? (Ignoring or avoiding is not a virtue.)
Beginning with the end in mind is good advice and it applies to church membership as well. What would it take for you to walk away?