The first reading for Tuesday’s Mass was Acts 16:22-34. The story is about Paul and Silas being arrested, beaten and jailed. During the night, “there was such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open and the chains of all were pulled loose.”
Two things caught my attention. The first is that even after the doors flew open and the chains were pulled loose, Paul and Silas stayed in the jail.
The second is that the jailer slept through the earthquake (“When the jailer woke up….”)
As I imagined this scene, I wondered if I would have stayed as Paul and Silas did or would I have run to freedom.
That provoked remembering other times when I have been faced with the question, Should I stay or should I go?
That question has arisen in relationships, work and volunteer involvement, and I thought about what helped me decide whether to stay or go.
Sometimes it was a commitment I had made that I felt I needed to keep, even though circumstances had changed and what had initially seemed good had become unhealthy. I have often stayed in jobs and in relationships long past the time when I should have left, but I have a strong sense of loyalty that can override common sense.
Would I have slept through an earthquake so powerful the doors flew open? I hope not, but as I reflected on those times that I stayed when it would have been better to go, I wondered if I was in some kind of sleep, perhaps caused by denial.
I admit I can be clueless. Like the time I was planning to marry someone who was cheating on me. I didn’t know he was cheating but how did I miss the signs? Asleep like the jailer?
My most recent conundrum has been with my church, which I joined when I moved here ten years ago. I like my parish and have been comfortable there. But about three years ago, there was an issue with my donation record—more than half of my donations did not make it to my annual report. I followed the proper steps to rectify the issue (hoping that it was a data-entry error and not a misappropriation issue).
Having worked in the nonprofit sector, I know the importance of correct donation recording and reporting.
I gave the pastor a printout of my bank statement showing all my contributions, so all he had to do was issue a corrected letter with the dates I had provided, but he did not. I stopped contributing but was left feeling dissatisfied and distrustful.
The pastor is beyond retirement age and in poor health. He is wobbly and will not use a cane; and I have seen him fall. Throughout Mass I am preoccupied with his unsteadiness, and I leave Mass unsettled and irritated—and asking myself why I stay.
Should I stay or should I go?
I have decided to go.