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Tale of the Tooth

I truly believe that we all have a God-sized hole within us that causes a sense of anxiety as we struggle to fill it with things that range from secular pleasures to strict fundamentalism.

Not finding the feel-good thing we’ve been looking for at one place we hop along to another…and another. That should come as no surprise, because if we haven’t identified what we crave, we can’t possibly satisfy the desire.

This is an ongoing phenomenon easily observed at the revolving door of American churches. While shopping for the perfect church, doctrine sometimes takes a back seat to amenities. Like a grand buffet, people just keep moving on down the line as they sample the fare at hand.

The reality of it all is that for a mixed bag of reasons, people come in and out of our churches all the time. The ones that leave me scratching my head are those who have been around for years and one day without warning or explanation, they simply walk out as if our relationship never existed. What could have been going on in their lives that we were unaware of?

Having considered them as friends, we may experience a grieving process as we deal with the emotion of loss, rejection, maybe even anger. How does a person who has been within your inner circle of friends justify pulling up anchor and slipping out like a thief in the night?

I’m a visual learner and I need something to help me grasp what has taken place. So here goes:

Some lost friendships are like baby teeth, they’re in our lives for just a short while. Before long they begin to wiggle and fall out. More often than not it’s a painless experience, a bit of blood and a noticeable gap that soon heals as it is replaced by a stronger permanent tooth.

Other lost friendships are like wisdom teeth. We’ve grown into them. Our relationship has been many years in the making, supporting each other through good times and bad. Then one day they get yanked out leaving a huge void. A sizable amount of blood is shed and sutures are required to close the wound. In some cases medication is recommended for the throbbing ache.

Unlike baby teeth, our bodies don’t replace wisdom teeth. Instead the remaining teeth have to realign, and in a sense stand in that noticeable gap, a very sore and inflamed gap.

The Mayo Clinic tells us that wisdom teeth may not need to be removed if they are:
• Healthy
• Grown in completely
• Positioned correctly and biting properly with their opposite teeth
• Able to be cleaned as part of daily hygiene practices

Many times, however, they just don’t have room to grow properly and can cause problems. I guess that same scenario can apply to people we know from church. As hard as that is to accept, we just have to understand and let them leave, hoping they find what they’re looking for.

Unfortunately there’s no way of getting around the fact that churches are made up of flawed people. A quest to find the perfect “church” will either keep us leaping from congregation to congregation in perpetual disappointment, or may eventually cause us to just give up and drop out altogether.

Why do we attend church in the first place? Which relationship are we hoping to cultivate there? Isn’t the most important relationship in our lives, the one we have with God?

Side-note: I still have my wisdom teeth — I’m kind of bullheaded that way.

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5 thoughts on “Tale of the Tooth

  1. Hi, I am wondering if you recently experienced someone leaving your church. Ron and I left St. James a while back and it proved to be very life giving. We found a church with good ministry, great music, faith studies, and wonderful new friends. It is sad when you leave a group of church friends but we felt we had to do it for spiritual growth. We still wanted to be in a Catholic Church because we love to pray the Mass and receive Communion weekly. We are open to where God is calling us and so far St. Mary Magdalene is our church home. When I see friends from St. James they express their love and say they miss us. We miss them too but can’t worship with them on a regular basis at St. James. Just wanted to share our experience. Love, Joanne

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  2. It’s not the leaving, its how you leave. When people walk out without a word to even their closest friends they leave behind some hurt feelings. Its as if no one mattered enough to even say goodbye.

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  3. Gene, I’m one of those people who don’t like changes. If our usual pastor isn’t preaching I struggle to pay attention. But I keep reminding myself that it’s my personal relationship with God that counts the most (as you mentioned in the post).

    Last Sunday I had car trouble and missed church altogether. My heart sank as I walked back into the house–until I remembered that His Spirit does not reside in a building–but inside each believer.

    Goodbyes are hard enough without them being done without any notice.

    Blessings ~ Wendy ❀

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  4. I left my mother church when I got married to a man of another denomination. Till then I was under the impression that my church was the best and we worshipped God the best. But after my marriage I understood that where we worship doesn’t matter but it is us that matter and our relationships with God. I am glad that God taught me that church denominations are man created but man’s inner self needs to be joined to God.
    I really don’t notice people leaving church probably because I am self-centered and don’t notice until long after the person is gone.
    Susie

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