What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Callie.

Photo by: Chuttersnap

I used to be on staff at a church. From time to time, we would learn of a family who had transferred their membership to another church in town. Sometimes they notified us before they left; other times, we would find out indirectly, from their Facebook posts or from a mutual friend.

Each time, I wrote them off, thinking to myself, How petty!,

I regret that I didn’t try harder to understand their perspectives.

What I want you to know is that we’re not trying to cause drama or division. We did not seek out conflict; rather, we found ourselves in the midst of a painful situation and felt compelled to follow our convictions. That path, ultimately, has led us to an even more painful decision: to leave our church.

This wasn’t a snap decision. We spent time praying, fasting, agonizing, talking to trusted mentors, and studying Scripture. We were — and are — trying to live as faithfully as we can. I am still not positive that we’re making the right decision, but we are trying our best. Please don’t assume that our intentions were malicious or that we had our minds made up from the start.

We’re not angry. I always imagined that taking a stand for my beliefs would feel more decisive. Heroic, even. Instead, my heart is broken. The whole situation feels like a messy divorce, ripping us apart from the church family that has loved us, supported us, and invested in us over the past five years. Just a few short months ago, we believed we would grow old alongside our Sunday School class, baptizing our children into this community and raising them together. But now I worry about the awkwardness of running into these same friends in the grocery store.

A few people have reached out to tell us that they love us, no matter what. We treasure their words and hope that that our friendship will continue, even if it is difficult or inconvenient.

A few, whom we expected to reach out, have remained silent. We respect their silence, even though it hurts.

A few have been wounded in the crossfire, and for that, we are deeply sorry.

I worry about what will happen to our story after we have left, how it may be twisted and misrepresented. By leaving, I know we have relinquished the opportunity to defend ourselves but if I’m honest, I’m tired of having to defend ourselves anyway. I hope people will remember the ways in which we loved, served, and belonged to the church, not just the circumstances under which we left.

I want you to know that I’m terrified of what comes next. What if we never find another place that feels like home? Or worse, what if we do…and have to go through this again someday?

Our faith journey is not over, though I have no idea where we’re going. Wherever we end up, this experience will forever be a part of our story, our perspectives, and our scars.