“Leaving Church”: life in the wilderness


This weekend I was driving along the highway and I was struck by the beauty of the prairie landscape. Bright green (new growth green), blue skies, and white clouds. Divine! Although this picture is a what an Albertan field looks like later in June, this photo does capture the vivid colours.

There is something about Spring and connecting to the earth and the cycle of life and death that is hard to desribe. After spending months looking at snow and leafless branches, Spring is a time of renewal, joy, and hope. It is a mystery the way everything comes back to life.


Spring is the constant reminder that life springs from death. In her memoir Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor tells her story of finding God in those little deaths that happen along the way. Moreover, she writes that “life springs from death, not only at the last but also on the many little deaths along the way” (218). What a wonderful truth to hold onto when things get rough.

Yet Brown Taylor’s book wasn’t just a reminder of the new growth that occurs in life, it is also a chance to struggle with some heavy and weighty questions:
When did defending the ink on paper become more vital than defending the neighbour?
What if people were invited to come tell what they already know of God instead of to learn what they are supposed to believe?

These are tough questions, but they are not meant to be left as questions. In her memoir, she tells the reader how she became human and whole through the activites of living her life: she took joy and pleasure in nature and the healing that comes from nature. Throughout the book she calls her time away from the Centre (Mother Church) as her time in the Wilderness. Within that Wilderness she has the space to question, space to seek, time to search, and time to heal. She enjoys the mysteries of life and embraces new ways of thinking and living. She realizes that her vocation is to be human.


I can relate to Brown Taylor’s need to be closer to nature in order to heal. With Spring having arrived–flowers staring to bloom, buds turning into leaves, and animals returning for the summer–I can’t help but feel that whatever died within me during the winter is about to come back to life again now that it is Spring. Humanity’s connection to earth is lost on me often as a city dweller, but I am never so close to nature and the healing it brings than in the Spring.

Like Barbara Brown Taylor, I need some time spent with the Divine Presence in the Wilderness to question, seek, leave behind, and eventually time to heal. Near the end of the memoir Brown Taylor says that she enjoyed her time in the Wilderness away from Church, yet “[she is] too in need of the regular reminder that falling is the way of life. Where else do human beings recognize the bread of heaven in a broken body, or know that their lives depend on eating that food?” (225). Christianity is a paradox where in order to be whole you must eat that which is broken and in order to be whole as a human you need time in community with other broken people.

Reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s memoir was an interesting insight into the life of a woman who left her vocation as a Priest, yet found her vocation of being human by loving God through her time in the Wilderness. She truly does show, in an achingly vulnerable and tender way, that life does spring from death.


He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth. (Psalm 72:6)

3 thoughts on ““Leaving Church”: life in the wilderness

  1. Geno

    I came across your blog through the title “Leaving Church”.

    I left the organized church years ago, because there just doesn’t seem to be a real grasp of what the Lord is looking to have in His people.

    Check out my site if willing. I’m looking for others who want to know the Lord in HIS way.

  2. Lisa

    I work at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University and this fall Barbara Brown Taylor is our McDonald Family Chair on the Life and Teachings of Jesus and their Impact on Culture. During her time with us, she is offering a public lecture and I am helping promote the event on Facebook. I love the photo of her on the farm — is that your image, and if so, would you mind if I used it in advertising the event? Thanks very much!

    1. plaidheart Post author

      Hi Lisa,
      Thanks for your comment. I also loved the photo of her on her farm! I actually found it on the internet (maybe I should start citing my sources . . . opps!!). I’m sure that whoever originally posted it would be happy to have it as part of an advertisement for a public lecture.


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