park and drive

park and drive May 12, 2012

Sarah parks at church but doesn't go in. She drives away.

Drawing this one was a very emotional experience for me.

She is me.

Is she you?

You can buy a print of this drawing here

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  • Ruthie

    Yes she is me

  • When a community does not grow in love and grace
    When their embrace does not enlarge
    When they forget how to be generous and hospitable
    When they ignore the call to serve
    They are the ones who are leaving
    Saying goodbye to their hearts
    Receding into the past
    Sinking into irrelevance

  • No. She is not me.

    She doesn’t seem to realize that God draws His people together for a reason, in spite of their differences and their brokenness.

    She is too self-absorbed and unforgiving.


    Now. if there is no Christ there…then that is another story. If it’s merely a ‘do-gooder club’ and self-help, spirituality/religious enterprise…then by all means, leave.

  • That was me aged about 12… I felt God all around me, but not in there.

  • Yes and no. first of all, she looks very worldly. Is that what is blocking her? All the church goers are stick people. Are they one-dimensional? Fans and not followers of Jesus? Is that what is blocking her?

    It wasn’t the other people, and it wasn’t me, that drove me out of the Anglican Church, but an unforgiving, politicized, rebellious-against-Christ hierarchy. Not the structure itself, but the men who held office in that structure.

  • Hey Steve: let’s not judge her. Let’s just let her live her own life. Let’s just listen.

  • there could be all kinds of reasons why she’s not going in. we don’t know.

  • Yes it is me. Not losing faith on God, just in the church.

  • “she looks very worldly”?

  • This was me when I was sixteen. With my newly acquired driver’s license I didn’t have to go to church with my parents any more. I would sit in the parking lot, not wanting to go in, but thinking it would be a sin if I didn’t. And since I was Catholic, it would be a mortal sin. Which would mean I would have to go to Confession or go to hell.

  • Emily

    She is not me. I am beginning a phase of my life where I am a part of a church in which I feel connected, valued, at home. But I can’t judge her. I know that the church can sometimes be a restrictive and unforgiving place to be. I want to get in the car with her, not to persuade or cajole her into going back to the church, but because I get the feeling she needs someone there.

  • Mags

    It is certainly my friend who I found sobbing her heart out one day at work, when I asked her what was wrong she said the church had broken her heart. all the time, hopes, expectations, beliefs about church, love, life invested and she knew it was time to leave as they had changed into something she couldn’t live with. It wasn’t their fault, it wasn’t her’s, she wasn’t worldly and she wasn’t self absorbed, she was broken hearted. My response was to love her in her pain and not to judge her, to walk the journey with her and to allow her and God to work it out.

  • No, she’s not me. I’ve often sat there thinking about it, but in the end I always get up and go in, because there’s enough love, enough need and enough of Christ in my local church community for me to put up with the damage that institutions do to everyone in them. As Eccles said in the Goon Show, “Everybody’s got to be somewhere”, and there is damage and grace everywhere, in church and outside. If there comes a point at which the damage outweighs the grace, as it does for many, I would have to drive away to survive.

  • Julia

    This is me. After a lifetime of service, love and commitment. Forty- plus years. I gave everything. I gave the very best years of my life to God and his people and then it was finished. Please don’t judge me, good Christian people. Please don’t judge me, God. One of the striking things about this picture is Sarah’s empty hand. It’s the hand I raised to God for years and the hand I gave to others. My hands are empty now.

  • Been there. I just move on when the spirit moves me to do so. Have come close to leaving the current parish but can’t for awhile now as I’m Senior Warden. The place seems to be improving – not because of me but thanks to those who left. But I tend to be a pollyanna. I’ll hang around until the spirit pushes me elsewhere. I have learned that I can’t live without church somewhere. Can’t explain it tho.

  • Eddy Hooper

    (Doug) That was a brilliant piece you put there…moving. How true this is because I really think in the past 30 years of following Jesus the importance of being in Church every Sunday is fast turning into “I’ll be there when I be there”. If not for my daughter and her mom’s slow growth in God’s grace I would be out like a light.

    This is me right now.

    This may be me in the future because I think this is so important to do so. I posted on my Facebook page from Rachel Evens about the flight of youth from the church because the church has turned into what Doug said above this hateful, intolerant place where no one wants their heart vulnerable at.

    My hope is we return to this aspect of what our faith is about…about what our relationship with God is all about.

  • thanks everyone for your comments. what stories!!

  • Gary

    It was me last summer and I am far richer fellowshipping online than I ever was in the doors of that place.

    “Self absorbed and unforgiving” Steve???

    YOU are EXACTLY the type of person I left behind. You represent why I will never return to such a place. You stand in judgment of others and condemn them without even taking the time to know them.

  • Jeff Cole

    She is me too. I did exactly this with my mega church a decade ago. They since have found me on Facebook and still continue in conversational pots in the same assumed understanding of doctrinal positional belief. If they only knew where I was now. Just wait till my blog hits the Internet.:)

  • Jean

    then these people never truly had her heart. It is very possible to be with a church for so long… you’re good as long as you stay within boundaries. But… if they not have Sophia’s heart, it easily goes somewhere else seeking true spiritual fulfilment as opposed of just living a routine.

  • Thanks, NakedPastor, for this very rich drawing, giving rise to such a wealth of commentary. It almost reminds me of the T.A.T., one of those classic psychological tests that’s sometimes administered in ministry career assessments. I wonder what captions others might give to the drawing, if yours was removed.

    As for my own situation, I’d say that at various points in 25 years of ministry, this definitely could have been me. I even left for two years to join a monastic community, where I thought perhaps I could live more faithfully. But I did, in the end, come back to parish ministry. Was this God? Vocation? Pure cussedness? Maybe a combination. In any event, I think it’s a matter of deep discernment, and unique to each person.

    Blessings on your journey – may you go in peace.

  • Jon Erzinger

    This is me. I too drove away from church, a flaming wreck. I was angry frusturated and tired of pretending that I enjoyed being there and around its people. The smiling happy people, the small unquestioning beliefs that didn’t allow for thought anger questions or difference. Its been 6 years since I left. I don’t think I could ever go back, you see its too small, and doesn’t fit what I’m learning in the wide open spaces of life. For me its not just about going to church or not. Its about which god do they tell us, both verbally and nonverbally through their lives. Yes there are times I miss the certainty that comes from being in a place where there is forced conformity, but I’m in the wilderness of the unknown with no question or stone left unturned. I’m off in a corner losing my religion, and sometimes I wonder if I haven’t lost my faith too.

  • Pat Pope

    Partially me. I still go, but for now I go, listen to the sermon and leave. Sometimes I participate in a class or program, but it’s of my free will and not the result of giving in to pressure from the group to conform and perform.

  • Yes, she is me. Thank you for this.

  • amazonfeet

    That is me, too. The judgementalism, along with ill treatment, pushed me out the door. I had to walk away so I wouldn’t self- destruct…I’m alive today because I walked away; it was a toxic environment, and it was poisoning me…

  • Andrea Lesko

    it was 25+ years for me, and some of them were good.

  • David Waters

    He came to set the captives free… from the system.

  • dave mcguire

    I had left for several years and recently began attending again.not sure why and for how thing, the “prophets” my former church one time were wailing “jesus is in the parking lot” maybe that is the place to be after all.

  • renee altson

    thank you.

  • Wow. A couple of these comments remind me of exactly why this Sarah IS me.

    Thanks for drawing this and thanks for all your drawings. They sum up my faith experience/struggle so perfectly. They remind me I’m not alone. They’ve been a huge source of encouragement. Thank you.

  • Robert Hornak

    1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

  • Crystal ( the original )

    Yes, she is me, too.

  • Crystal ( the original )

    Another thing I noticed about the cartoon that says she is me. I have a ponytail and I wear rings on all my fingers. If that’s “wordly” then welcome to the real world. We’re all part of it.

  • Gord

    Tears came when I saw this, it reached instantly to my core. There is church, and then there is a relationship with God which leads to a relationship with people at the heart level. The two are different, as Steve’s comments clearly show. Thanks Steve, you remind me of why I am not religious any more. The next step for Sarah after this is finding the real God, I so hope she does, cause God wants to find her. And it’s not inside that building. Wow, incredible drawing.

  • This isn’t me. I don’t own a car. The bus gives you less time to think about it. 🙂

    No, seriously. It’s been 16 years since I left the first, 8 years since the second, 6 years since I left the third, 1 year since leaving the fourth, heartbroken – and who knows when I’ll leave this next one. I’ve stopped expecting it to last.

  • Julia

    Me too. Many years filled with open and loving community.

  • Gary

    Robert…seriously?? You drop a proof text on us, ripped out of context, without enough decency or respect to even care about the impact of such an insult?

    Wow – What an offensive comment.

    Damn am I glad I left your kind behind!! The truth of God’s love is not found in such behavior.

  • John Taylor

    @Steve Martin: Your comments are very insensative and judgmental. That kind of attitude doesn’t belong here. Perhaps it’s people like you that she’s trying to escape.

    @Jon Erzinger: I feel you, my friend. Please know, however, that you are NOT losing your faith. In fact, you are actually building your faith. Our faith is often at it’s strongest when were in the wilderness.

    I have been in a similar place, more than once. I could write a whole book on those experiences. But I’ll suffice to say that for me, being in that place was the most difficult, and liberating experiences I’ve had. And I am the stronger and wiser for it.

  • Christelle

    Yes. She is Me.

  • Renny

    Figuratively, yes me. Drove away from god as well as church.

    Considering the lack of very few of my “brothers and sisters” actually following up with me, I wonder how many thought as Robert Hornak does as he quotes:
    “May 12, 2012 | 11:51 am
    1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”

    But then again, in my past life, and sad to admit, I likely have said or at least thought what he put in writing. I hope people have forgiven me.

  • CLo

    My first thought was, “Holy expletive, THAT IS ME & then some!” Then I started thinking about it, while I have felt so disconnected from the bride and have become wary of the ABSOLUTE overhyping that is happening by those planting churches, I do feel like the groom is near & the Father is patiently allowing me to work through my issues as I find new community in Jesus and his followers. This may simply be that I need to stop listening to all of the junk and listening only to the Spirit of God. So, while I am still in the car & pulling away at the moment my heart has not stopped thinking of the One who draws me to a life full of so much more than I’ve found yet.

  • I’m very worldly, but I don’t have a ponytail.

  • Yup, Gary. Massive context fail. Who is the “us”? If it is Christians, most of us never did leave. If it’s those in the churches we left, it may in some cases be true – so what? In some cases, it might be too high a compliment to say we were never one of them.

  • Kris

    My husband and I did this. Truly.

  • Mitch

    Perhaps it’s not the actions of the people of the church that causes her to stay away. It could be that she’s learned a fundamental truth that the rest of them cannot (or will not) see.

  • Helen

    “She looks very worldly” – because she’s not wearing a burqa? (with Chanel, or Dior or Givenchy underneath)

  • Helen

    Yes, that’s me. I didn’t get as far as the car park though. I woke up one Sunday trying to reason with myself to go and just couldn’t physically face it anymore. The relief was awesome and a most liberating experience. The most hurtful judgement I’ve had has been from the Steve Martin characters. And kooks who write bible verses and don’t engage just confirm what I’m not missing. John and Jon thank you for your words, that’s where I’m at. I’m encouraged. PS I did find a positive worship experience for a season after that on an early week morning with about three other people. It chucked my earlier anti-church prejudices out the door.

  • i love the caption, David– it’s odd, but i had that experience with the NA meetings i went to- i drove to one, sat in my car, and then left… made a couple of attempts to get back in with the group(s), but just couldn’t make it happen. So she is me, yes. And with the church- well, i haven’t been able to to “do church” in months, and i doubt that will change any time soon.

  • wonderful stories everyone, though sad.

  • She is too self-absorbed and unforgiving. (SM)

    No. If anyone is self-absorbed, it’s you. If anyone is unforgiving, it’s you. Your head is so far up your back passage and your heart is so icy that you cannot even see it or sense it. Elitist, self-righteous attitudes like yours are why mainstream churchianity turns people off and makes them quit a congregation.

    And it’s why, often, I barely want anything to do with Christianity.

    (Comments like SM’s are really super triggery for me. Seriously.)


    Right now, Sarah isn’t me. However, like Emily, I want to get in the car with her and give her a hug, a listening ear, or whatever she needs.

    The next step for Sarah after this is finding the real God, I so hope she does, cause God wants to find her.

    I like to think God has already found her. Perhaps he’s the one who compelled her to leave and she hasn’t worked that out yet?

  • Sam

    Good for sarah.

  • bob

    Easy Shelly. SM is like the Borg…impenetrable. Believe me, I have tried.

    I was like Sarah for about the last half of my Christian experience. I’d try a church, then after a few years, I’d have to stop “trying” simply because I wasn’t fitting in. Eventually (12 years ago), I had to stop trying Christianity (I tried for 25 years). But if you are a sensitive, caring type, you never seem to get over it. My guess – Sarah, David, and me will never get over it.
    Sometimes I wish I were a sociopath. I get really tired of baggage.

  • Aaron

    Yep. That was me. Last week I sat in the parking lot for about 5 minutes till I convinced myself to go in. Tomorrow I don’t think I’ll be making it out to my car.
    My religious exile, something that has been inevitable for a while now, has finally come.

  • wow aaron. i wasn’t aware how right on the drawing would be for so many people.

  • hey bob… personally, i’m glad you’re not a sociopath. you might be right though about not getting over it.

  • Wow, “park and ride,” is striking. I remember that day. I also remember how the weight on my shoulders got lighter and lighter as I got farther and farther away.

  • *park and drive

  • I still watch them walk in. A new church moved in across the street from us a year or so ago. I only visited there; that church itself I’m not attached to. Though it does remind me of one I went to before.

    I watch the people go in. Walking from their cars. Alone, in pairs, in families. I know I wouldn’t be welcome, there, if they knew me. I know I didn’t want to be there when I knew them. But it stirs up those memories of leaving, of being Sarah.

  • Syl

    This brought back a lot of memories. She is – or was – me.

    She is at a difficult but ultimately necessary place in her journey. If she is, indeed, like me then she has come to a crossroad, a place of decision: be true to who God made her to be (if indeed such a God exists) or continue to walk the walk and talk the talk outwardly, knowing the security of fellowship and belonging but withering and eventually dying inside. Intellectual, spiritual, and personal integrity – with whatever consequences might follow – or the safety and security of a pleasing lie that gradually erodes the soul.

    Jon E – your story is very familiar. Don’t worry about losing your faith. If it comes to that you may well find something that is quite different than you expect, and better than you might imagine. And if it doesn’t come to that, well, I think you will also find something much different and far better than you’ve previously known.

    Although it’s been many years since I made my “Sarah” decision, I found that some of the comments triggered old memories and feelings.

    Our good friend Steve Martin said:

    “No. She is not me.

    She doesn’t seem to realize that God draws His people together for a reason, in spite of their differences and their brokenness.

    She is too self-absorbed and unforgiving.”

    When I read these remarks something in my head went wwrrrrzzzzz-pop! And then my blood pressure went up as a shit load of old crap flooded back to mind. If good old Steve had been in the room with me it would have taken a great deal of restraint to keep from whacking him over the head with something handy, like a frying pan or the coffee pot. After settling down a bit I was able to see in the comment made by His Honor, the Judger of Motives, the black humor of blind irony. But somehow I don’t think it was intended that way – this isn’t that Steve Martin.

    Although others have already commented on his graceless commentary, I need to say a couple of things:

    Steve, I notice that, rather than saying “not me” and then speaking about your own experience (you, personally – not bible-speak and bullet-point doctrine), you instead focus on her assumed shortcomings.

    After making a statement concerning what you perceive to be her lack of understanding (qualified with “seems” – a promising start) you then assert that she’s too self-absorbed and unforgiving.

    Really? What in David’s drawing or commentary led you to that conclusion? Nothing, as far as I can tell – you gave no inkling of the reasoning behind your proclamation. So tell me – you know this because…? Oh, that’s right – you’ve read her mind, felt her sorrow, heard her prayers, seen the kindnesses (or unkindnesses) she’s done in secret, understood the motives of her heart. Wow. That’s some impressive goddiness you’ve got going on there. If this is the type of “drawing together” she has experienced, she would be well advised to leave and never look back.

    It’s called survival. Leaving is hard, gut-wrenching, and heartbreaking. But it is sometimes necessary. It was for me – and some time after leaving, I realized that deep inside, a small flame still burned. Hope, joy, and peace had almost been extinguished, but a flicker of life remained. Any doubts I still had about leaving were settled and I began moving forward. There is life – good, meaningful, joyous life – after religion.

  • Gary

    Syl – “There is life – good, meaningful, joyous life – after religion.”

    I absolutely LOVE this statement!!

  • Helen

    Syl, I think you can be pretty certain that SM doesn’t read your comments, or anybody else’s. I think he’s ‘hit and go’ with his comments, buzzing in and then buzzing away. But his comments on this thread revealed where his heart is at and how he views people. Unfortunately I believe he actually thinks it’s evangelism. Reminds me of a disturbance one night, dogs were barking etc and we went to the window to see what the matter was. It was a few folks from a ‘member only’ church in town standing around a light post, and one was preaching aloud from an open bible. I don’t know if they expected anyone to join them or be convicted or anything. It was the saddest sight, preaching to a light post. Some years later all of the members had died (from old age I presume) and the church building and land has now been sold. True story.

  • I was very touched. I did that about 27 years ago to a church I was a highly visible member of (and an associate pastor of for a while) for over 20 years. I felt “real” for once in my Christian life: I didn’t have to leave something of myself in the parking lot to be accepted for a change.

  • Thanks so much Steve for sharing.

  • jonathan walliser

    wow this really hit me in the gut. I have had a long history with Christianity and will religious people. I never fit in well at all, I was silent and rarely got involved the the discussions because it always ended up being a “im more of a christian than you” type thing and I got tired of hearing my peers fighting over imaginary crap out of the bible and it not meaning a damn thing in the real world. They all pretty much believed as their parents did and there was very little room for change. I went to church with my family pretty much all my childhood and once I was 21 and more than fed up with the church and all the friends from it, I joined the Navy and have not been to church since, and I joined 5 years ago.

    I am no atheist or agnostic, but I am no christian either. My Sarah experience was at a base chapel here on base and I went to service one morning and wondered why the hell I was there, it seemed so stupid. I had already heard the hymns and I knew the bible cover to cover, I didnt need some old guy to get up there and give another lame version of it. I got even more turned off when the paster was trying to tell jokes to keep the crowd awake i guess. I couldnt wait to get back to the barracks and I never have been inside a church since, well actually I did try a bible study at the on base chapel later that week and came to the same result, I did NOT fit in at all, I didnt think like any of the other guys and I couldnt pretend like the others were doing. I however am not closed off to spirituality and the supernatural, I just have no time for brainwashed evangelical idiots

  • Thought Too Much

    I was Sarah for a long, long time. I only stayed at my church for as long as I did to make my wife happy. Now, I no longer go, but she still does. I also no longer believe, while she is still a devout Christian.

    I think I said goodbye to the people in my heart years before I left physically. I got to the point where I didn’t think I could listen to one more sermon, one more “praise report,” one more prayer request (that I knew would never be answered), one more “message from the Lord” in the form of speaking in tongues and interpretation, or one more “prophecy.”

    This drawing struck a deep chord within me. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  • May

    Well, I notice it is an older post but somehow I feel like responding. (I just discovered this blog and the drawings.. love it)
    I recognize myzelf a lot in sarah. Although I never took the time to say goodbye. I often felt like the kind of christian who was just prone to draw outside the lines not doing as told (and maybe I thought I ‘sinned’ more than others). I seemed to be the only one batteling my thoughts and feelings.

    ‘fitting in’ is something I tried in several ways in my life, including church. But I always end up as an outsider.

    But maybe that’s just exactly where I need to be.. outside

  • hi may. there can be friends on the outside too. i hope you find a bunch.