My story is one of becoming
I was a home schooled child of the 80’s who went to church three times a week and was the star of Sunday School.
I was a teenager of the 90’s who went on an international mission trip every single summer and lived for church and youth group.
I was a Bible College student/missionary/youth worker in the 00’s who got married for all the wrong reasons and ended up in a very unhealthy marriage but was able to gloss over that, because I was a successful full time church worker with two gorgeous children, a well-loved worship leader, with a passion for women and families and pastoral work.
My church loved me and the sense of belonging I got from being in that place managed to eclipse what I viewed as temporal earthly problems.
I clutched my ministry career close to my heart and held on to it with all my strength because it was the one thing that made me feel like I wasn’t a failure. It was a massive validating factor in my life filling it with purpose and providing a portal to joy that I did not have at home. I felt so grateful to God for giving it to me, because it felt like it was saving my life, and for many years it did. So as I worshiped and sang and prayed in the euphorically spiritual environment of a massive well-loved worship event one summer evening, Spirit showed me how hard I was gripping, and told me to open my hands and to let it go. I was scared, but I took a deep breath, and physically opened my hands while on my knees. In that moment I heard a whisper to my spirit. “I want you to catch babies”. Just like that. Out of the blue. I knew I was being called to Midwifery. I was scared. I didn’t want to leave the ministry, but I couldn’t ignore it.
Two weeks later my marriage imploded for the final time. It took me 9 months of agonisingly processing with friends, a therapist, myself and God to make a decision. Leaving had never been an option before, I had always thought one day God would do a miracle and our marriage would be an amazing testimony. However I came to the realization that God loved me more than He loved my marriage and that it was time to go.
The freedom and experiences I had within the first few months of leaving blew my world wide open and fast tracked my deconstruction journey. I found myself traveling down to London to see Rob Bell speak, not because of what he had to say but because I wanted to see for myself how completely at peace he was with where he was at after leaving the fold of evangelicalism. I started devouring not only his Podcast, but the Liturgists as well and anything else that resonated with where I was at and what I was experiencing.
I continued working for the church while quietly keeping my deconstruction journey to myself, however there were those who had been watching me closely, suspecting, wondering, and waiting to catch me out. All it took was one unguarded Facebook post about an inspirational teacher I’d been following and learning from who was outside the lines, and it triggered the beginning of the end for me and my relationship with the church. I came under intense attack. I was confronted under the guise of a friendly catch up, and told all the work I had been doing for the church was tainted by “new age influences”, that I was clearly “being deceived” and that I was becoming a dangerous influence because I practiced yoga. I had intended to gracefully exit my life as a church leader, but instead it was a messy exit, full of pain, betrayal, and lost friendships. There were still people in the leadership who loved me and wanted me to “just ignore” what was being said, and to carry on being part of the community, and for a season I tried. However I then experienced the second wave of pain which was realising that once I was no longer in leadership or involved in the inner workings of the church, I was invisible. People didn’t seem interested in really knowing me anymore. My midwifery training was full on and I very quickly become ‘out of sight, and out of mind’ and friendships I had counted on to see me through this transitional time seemed to fall away. I felt my worth as a friend had diminished perhaps because I could no longer be who I used to be. This broke my heart.
Since then, my deconstruction journey has been characterised by the loss of my reputation as a leader, a friend, and a Christian. I’ve felt spiritually lost for a lot of the time and simply taken comfort in the voices of those who were further along like Rob Bell, Science Mike, Michael Gungor, Nomad Podcast etc.
Recently I have started to rebuild. I’m nearing the end of my University course and will be a qualified midwife soon. I look forward to a new career, but am taking care to not make it my sole identity like I did with my church work.
My journey has also been characterised by much beauty and new life. I’ve experienced new love, and a deeper connection to nature. A year ago I turned 40 and spent the day on the island of Iona, completely connected to the earth, feeling as though the Island itself was loving me as I laid in the grass and stared up at the sky. I danced on the beach there and prayed over my future. A week later I was in Rome on a Sacred Feminine embodiment retreat when I found the strength to physically turned my back on the Vatican and walk away. I finally felt safe enough to admit to God that I was done. I no longer needed the established Church to give me my identity, to validate me, or as a place to find belonging. I told Jesus that if He wanted me, He’d have to win my heart back. It was a tremendously mystical moment in which I feel the person of Jesus actually appeared to me and sang over me as I walked away to freedom.
Since then my world has opened up. I am discovering more embodied spiritual practices and exploring other traditions. Jesus makes an appearance in the midst of this, and I feel His presence and His unconditional love. I still feel pain over my loss of the Church community. I still fight bitterness taking root over the people who seem to have forgotten about me. Although I know the divorce was absolutely the right thing, there are inevitably ongoing consequences for my children that I have to face and work through.
I have a new partner who is amazing, but the relationship is under a lot of scrutiny for many reasons, and I still get paralysed with fear that there is no way this could possibly be “right” and my ego is desperately wanting to retain approval from the outside world in order to feel OK, so I have to fight self-sabotage at every turn.
I’ve made new friends though through University, and through the local Vegan Café that has a heart for wellness and community. I’ve enjoyed just being April….not “April from the local Church”, who is learning to just be, and experiencing the freedom of loving people without any agenda or judgment.
I’m incredibly grateful for the chance to have a whole new life. I’m still early on in my journey, but I am become more “unrecognisable” every day. There is a grief to that, but also an incredible peace.
– April Hunter