To continue the story from my latest post, "Looking back, looking forward," I consider my renunciation of the ordained ministry to be a break for freedom, a coming out party, and the laying down of a very heavy burden. Yet however light-hearted that may sound, it was anything but easy. There was death, there was grief, there was fear. There were no guarantees.
Was I making a mistake? Would I some day come to regret taking this essentially irreversible step? Maybe. Maybe not.
On Sunday, March 31 I awoke feeling heavy, raw, and vulnerable. The enormity of what I was doing had really taken hold of me the day before when I'd received in the mail copies of the documents that I and the bishop and witnesses would sign on April 3, Thursday, just a few days away.I had read and discussed the contents with the bishop, but this was the first time I actually held copies in my hands.
Grief for what I was leaving behind and fear, especially fear, obscured the clarity I had known for most of the past several weeks. Tears were just below the surface. I told myself to tread softly, to be gentle with myself, and maybe I could avoid a major meltdown.
"It's not that I'm changing my mind," I told David on Saturday after the mail had come. "It's just hard. Really really hard."
On Sunday, per my usual morning habit, I sipped my mug of tea and wrote a little in my journal, though that didn't seem to help any. I found myself remembering something a friend had told me several weeks before, that when she is struggling to get clear about something, she finds it helpful to clean out clutter. Meaning: physically sort and clear out material stuff from some part of your home. I had already found this helpful, though never in a clear, linear, cause-effect kind of way. It was just that things I'd been mulling over would somehow resolve and get clearer after I did some sorting and tossing.
"OK," I said to myself as I left my small upstairs study and headed downstairs, still wearing my morning outfit of nightgown, hooded fleece, and sweatpants. "Just pick one small task, one shelf of books. That's all you have to do. Just do that."
I chose one short section of bookcase in our dining room where the extra books were tucked sideways over the upright ones. A box for collecting give-aways was already there from the last time I'd worked on these shelves.
I worked along quickly and easily without stopping to browse or to give much thought to each book. I seemed uncharacteristically decisive: some I left on the shelf; some went in the box. No looking back!
I worked from right to left until only two books remained. I saw their titles and stared.
Death in Holy Orders, by P. D. James.
And Living Free, by Joy Adamson.
"OK," I said. "I get it." I started to laugh, and probably cry, too. "I get it. I remember why I'm doing this."
Somehow I knew I would be OK. Not that everything would be rosy and simple, but that I would survive. I could renounce my ordination vows, and I would be fine, maybe even more than fine.
"Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."
When Thursday morning rolled around, I knew I would tell this story at my "renunciation ceremony" in Emmanuel Chapel at the Cathedral. I had asked the bishop for a chance to say something, although at the time I hadn't known what I would say. I brought the two books with me as visual aids and to add a little drama and humor to the day.
I also gave out cards of a drawing of yellow tulips I had done for David's good friend Nat on his birthday. I've been wondering just how to mark this day today. Maybe a bunch of yellow tulips would be just the thing.