When Courage Means Saying Goodbye


Bethany Olsen -Goodbye4

I’ve been an editor for SheLoves for more than three and a half years. When I first started reading the magazine, well before I joined the editorial team, it was at a time when I needed to drink up words of freedom and justice. I needed to see the embodiment of women leading in the church. I desperately needed to know that it’s OK to stop fighting for a seat at the table; that there is another way.

As Sarah Bessey says:

This is one more gift that the emerging church gave me more than a decade ago: when you don’t find it, you simply create it. You emerge from what currently is into what will be, as pioneers, rule-breakers. Stop waiting for permission and get on with the work that God has called you to, stop waiting for permission and be brave, be courageous, be boldly full of Love and gentleness but step out into the space to create.

That’s what SheLoves has signified to me. It began when I decided to do something that felt big and bold, something very unlike me. I emailed Idelette on January 1, 2013, in a very New Years Resolution-y sense of self resolve, asking, “What can I do for this community? Is there a way for me to contribute?” I knew that I could spend forever sitting in the shadows, not commenting, not speaking up, not sharing my voice because it’s too scary—not just with SheLoves, but in all areas of my life. But I no longer wanted to. I needed so desperately to force myself off the bench. This was a defining moment, a tangible decision to get in the game.

It was absolutely terrifying.

Since then, I’ve learned and grown so much, soaking up the vibrancy and life this space has given. But now I need to say goodbye, at least to my role on the editorial team. I’ve started grad school while working full-time. Most days I can’t even remember what day of the week it is (but I can tell you all about the evolution of management theory if you ever want a good story).

It’s time, I know it’s time, but it’s very hard for me to not equate “goodbye” with “I’ve failed.” Because of that, I’d like to edge away quietly and under the radar. Better to not even talk about it, or acknowledge All The Feelings. Better to go back to the bench and tell myself that I’m just not really that great at being in the game after all, right?

I want to slink off with an apologetic whisper: “It’s not working out, I’m sorry. I’m doing grad school and I just can’t do it all. I should have done more and been more and learned much better how to use my voice. I should have written better words, been less afraid of community, been better at leaning in despite my fears. I’m sorry I haven’t done these things, and now it’s too late, now I have to go.”

But I don’t want to do that this time. The place has taught me how to be brave, and it’s time for bravery now. So, instead I’m taking a deep breath, and choosing not to slink away. Instead, I want to say thank you to this community. Thank you for being Jesus to me, for being a community of women who are fiercely encouraging, for being Women who Love. Thank you for being the words on my screen I desperately needed when I was in my mid-twenties and so unsure of what it meant to be a woman in the church-with-a-capital-C. Thank you for sticking with me as I entered my thirties as a single woman with a failing parent, unsure of what the word “family” means anymore. Thank you for being a safe space.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this community, it’s that the world needs my voice.

The world needs your voice, too. We need to speak up and speak out and speak truth into the darkness, and we need to do it together. This place taught me that, and it’s a lesson I’m taking with me, even as I say goodbye for now.