A few years ago I came home from our Easter service; I was a wreck. A sobbing, crying, hands-lifted-high, had-to-take-my-contacts-out wreck. I was feeling the need to write it out a bit, to figure out what I was feeling by putting fingers to keyboard, to begin to untangle all of the emotions swirling in my heart, to shake them out for a good look, a look at loving his church. I feel like God has made something beautiful out of my mess and my dust.
Years ago, my husband Brian left full-time vocational ministry, and, you who have walked this road with us, you know, it’s been a journey. We were so burnt out, so exhausted, so broken hearted, and part of me, a big part of me, never wanted to darken the door of a church again.
Brian embarked on seminary, he was being drawn more and more to denominational infrastructures as a way to guard against some of the abuses that are sadly common to our faith background. And me? I just stopped caring, stopped going; I decided to forget about church and just follow Jesus. I stopped calling myself a Christian because I couldn’t identify myself with so much of what the church was doing or selling or preaching. We were worlds apart, but we clung together to one truth: God is love. Love was all that held me, all that held us both, as we struggled to find out how we could navigate our exhaustion, our questions, our doubts, our frustrations, our histories, with the Bride of Christ.
We went to church now and then, but it was a chore, we never felt at home, I couldn’t seem to shut off the running monologue in my head, critical, wounded, bitter. Finally, I gave up and just settled that God would work something out, that somehow he would show me what church is and what it should be and how I could be part of it somehow in a way that felt intellectually, spiritually and emotionally honest. In the meantime, I turned to Jesus, I flung myself at his feet, and I found grace there, I found healing, rest, Love, peace.
I loved God. I struggled with loving His church.
I still have a lot of those questions. I still get the hives when I see big churches with big splashy programs, any mention of a building project. Any talk of business plans and marketing money, gimmicks and light shows, make my eyes cross. Sometimes I still go to church and feel like running, pell-mell, tumble-bumble, into the fresh air.
But a year ago, we went to a local church here. And it was close to Easter and my heart, somehow, my heart just exhaled. I didn’t know what it meant. I hardly know now. All I knew was that I felt like I was home, like maybe God had something for me here.
So we just kept showing up.
The people were nice, but it wasn’t like it was that different than anywhere else, really. We made a few friends. I hatched a master plan to make friends by volunteering for a thing here and there (it worked). Some months, we didn’t go even once, other months, we didn’t miss a week. The tinies loved every Sunday, begged to go back, but that’s normal for them, they just love church, they don’t carry an ounce of the baggage their parents seem to cart around about the gathering of the believers.
I got together with some women, sometimes we became friends, other times, we didn’t, it just wasn’t a great fit, we weren’t clicking, but that was OK, somehow. Other times, I did find friends, find a moment of laughter and connection. Even more miraculously, perhaps, I found women that read my blog (if you can believe it) and somehow, even that was a gift.
I could be the same person in every corner of my life, no more masks, no more hiding my questions, my journey, my realness. It was just all out there and life became seamless. I went to Bible study and not a single woman there said a word about The Bachelor, they prayed for one another, and it felt real, like everything I’ve been wanting and yearning for, a bit of a mess, and so full of Love. I made friends. I began to feel like I’d like to be good, good friends with a couple of them.
I stood in the school gym and I realized, this is church.