Finding Home (Making the Change Part 3)
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I was born in 1981. My parents transplanted from red-dirt Oklahoma to sunny California in the middle of the hippie movement. By the time I came along they had been ministering to street people for more than a decade.
Children of the wealthy had shaken off materialism and ended up living on the streets of Santa Cruz. The church my dad pastored ran a mission 7 days a week. You could eat a good meal and hear my dad preach most nights. A couple in the church had purchased an old hotel that they converted into transitional living. It was called the Shepherds Fold.
In my early years, we were what they call Bible Missionaries. During the 1950s there was a group that thought the Church of the Nazarene was far too worldly. Society was headed to hell and they believed that holiness people needed to “hold the line.” They held that women should only wear dresses and never cut their hair or wear makeup.
TV watching was strictly forbidden. Technically we didn’t have a TV. Except, my dad would rent a reel-to-reel projector from the library so we could skirt the rules and watch movies in the basement. We were rebels for sure.
In 1985 we relocated to eastern Washington. A couple years later the church was in upheaval. Restrictions proliferated. After all, playing cards were the devils toys and bowling was a drinking game. You know, more worldliness. More holding the line, whatever that means.
This time, the main points of disagreement were computer screens and whether men should be allowed to grow facial hair. My dad felt like that was a bridge too far.
And so, my parents made the very difficult decision to leave their church. They left behind what they thought would be lifelong friendships, naively thinking those relationships would still hold. They quickly learned they were no longer welcome. You’re either in or out, and we were most definitely out. Which was odd, because the reel to reel projector was a fairly well kept secret.
I asked my dad how he made such a difficult decision. Here’s what he said:
When I went to Santa Cruz I had all these young people from non-church backgrounds. When visiting preachers would come and preach things the young people began asking where do you find that women must wear nylon hose, no smoking, no drinking, no short sleeves, women not wearing slacks, etc. in the Bible. I was too honest to tell them “It is the good old fashioned way,” or berate them for questioning church doctrine. Over time I had to face that many of our beliefs were based on 1920s American culture and not the Bible. That is what started the process. I saw too many people leave the church because of rules that were not based on the Bible. I could have put up with the rules for myself, but I saw too many other people knocked out spiritually over made up rules not based on Bible truth and I feared next would be my own children.
These hippie street people, whose lives were so dramatically changed by the good news of Jesus Christ, often became disillusioned with a faith practice that didn’t ring true to its name sake.
At 40 years old, about the same age as I am now, my dad left the only profession he’d ever known. Ever tried to get a job when the only thing on your resume is pastor?
My dad describes those as very dark days. He had a moment of despair, realizing that his life insurance policy meant that he was worth more to his family if he were dead.
I asked him what was the most difficult thing about making such a life changing transition. Surprisingly, it wasn’t finding a new profession. He said, “After we left I felt so all alone. There was a camaraderie of us against the whole world in the Bible Missionary Church. We were part of a close knit group. I think that is one of the things that make cults attractive.”
I was like 6-7 years old. I had no idea what my parents were going through. I remember sleeping on a pull out bed, sharing a room with my grandma. I always smelled like old lady. My brothers, Sam and Tom shared a room and Joe slept on the living room floor until he got married and moved out. My dad’s former associate pastor and his family of 3 lived in a travel trailer in our back yard. We were 10 people sharing a 3 bedroom house with a backyard trailer in Northeast Portland, OR.
When we lived in that little house, we also bought a TV for the first time! It was black and white with a dial tuner. My dad soon got rid of it because we enjoyed it too much. He said everyone was glued to the thing and we couldn’t get anything done. He probably gave it back to the same Goodwill he got it from.
My mom, who had almost no work experience, found a job first. She took insurance claims for Allstate Insurance. That’s also when we started wearing seat belts for the first time. She was great at her job. I mean, seriously, who wouldn’t want to talk to my mom? She’s so kind. I always call her when I’m in crisis.
My dad eventually got a job, too! He started working as a bookkeeper for a cabinet factory. Over time the owner realized that my dad’s experience as a pastor meant he could do all the things. Soon my dad pretty much ran the place.
And with that my family began the long process of transition. Change happened all at once, but finding our way through the other side took years. Heck, I was 7 and sometimes I feel like I’m still recovering.
I asked my dad, Can you remember when you felt ok after the transition? What did that look like? “It was a long time and very gradual,” he said. “The further I got the more I saw how bad it was. I had accepted so much for so long that it took a process to get over it.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about change and transitions lately. There are so many words to describe this place that many of us find ourselves in: disorienting, exciting, unpredictable, risky, hopeful. I hadn’t thought about it being lonely.
In this process of going from where you are to where you need to be, sometimes there are places, things and people that have to be left behind. The struggle of transition, in and of itself, can even feel isolating.
I keep trying to write some advice on transition, but I just can’t quite do it. My intuition tells me that you already know what you need to do. Like, pick up the phone and call someone already. Reconnect to your vision. Be courageous and set a goal. Ok, maybe that was a little bit of advice giving.
Here’s where I really am.
This week I was going through old audio files and found a song that I forgot that I had written, apparently when I was 26. October of 2007,
I had just graduated from seminary. I was exhausted and burned out from working two jobs and going to graduate school full time. I wasn’t sure what to do next, whether I should stay or go.
I rediscovered the words to the chorus. They keep ringing in my ears, over and over again. “Hey Sharon, it’s God. Just want to say that, I love you. On this journey never forget that I go with you. Make your home in me.”
Also, my 26 year old self would like to remind you that God hasn’t left you and you are never alone.
Here’s the rest of the lyrics:
By Sharon Beck
October 27, 2007
Twenty-six years of wandering,
You’d think maybe I’d make my way home by now
So many places, so many faces
And I’m out here determined to change the world.
West coast, east coast, ellos me llaman nomada
They welcome me, Still thinkin’,
white girl what you doin’ trying to change the world?
One day, one song, one love, one word at a time.
Sunrises and sunsets, they all look the same
Hellos and goodbyes, they all sound like the same words to me
Looking for someone wondering if someone might be looking for me
Hey Sharon, it’s God. Just want to say that, “I love you.”
On this journey never forget that I go with you
Make your home in me
Make your home in me.
This is the story of a little girl
And the love of a great big God.
You will cry, and you might get lonely
But I need someone to change the world
Peace, love and all the words they’ve heard before
Young ambition and foolish youth, don’t be discouraged Stop and smell the sunshine, let them know I haven’t left them
Never be alone…
I will rejoice, Alleluia