When I left church to serve Jesus out in the world the way I’d been taught, the rector’s wife called me up and calmly told me I’d burned my bridges. Eighteen months later, in the wee hours of one of those dark nights of soul, I occupied my insomnia by listening to Dharma Ocean teacher Reggie Ray’s weekly podcast. I really woke up, as a Buddhist might say, when I heard Reggie say into my iPhone ear buds,
“Burn your bridges. Light a match and burn your bridges. And don’t just burn your bridges; you be the one to light the match.”
Reggie was explaining how his teacher, Tibetan Buddhist Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, had told his students to “Leap!” when the opening comes; don’t hesitate, don’t wait, because the opening won’t last.
When I left organized religion to “go unto all the world” as Jesus instructed after his resurrection, I did leap and I didn’t hesitate. I awoke to the mental download, “leave church,” in early September 2011. It was a premonition, a knowing imperative that doesn’t happen often. When it does it is irrefutable.
I immediately began letting people know that I had fulfilled my obligations to the church parish and was called to serve out in the world like Jesus. I expressed my gratitude for being allowed to teach, pray, and mission within the safety of the organization, and was therefore graduating from the fold to help those who weren’t in the pews. I was willing to leave the 99 to help the one, no matter where it took me.
To this day, I remain perplexed that I must turn to Buddhism to find understanding of such a call. Too many of my church-attending friends responded to my happy news with sadness, gossip, and confusion. Some have remained friends, others have distanced themselves, and a few have simply disappeared despite my attempts at contact.
I cannot praise Buddha, for I only worship God; but I am grateful to his followers who like me, are actively leaping. Don’t hesitate; strike the match! Amen.