Day 5 of 100 intentional, reflective steps.
Things that others may take for granted are not constants for me. Take parents for instance. Most people have a single set of parents, like ’em or not. Not me. I had birth parents. Then I had adoptive parents. Then adoptive parents. (Yes. Another set.) Then step parents. Then guardianparentsfosterparentsguardianparents. Then I had parents in law. Yup that’s 6+ sets.
However ever since the third set of parents took charge there has been one constant in my life. I have been in church every week of the last forty-ish years, except in cases of long illness or travel. It has been a place of comfort, familiarity, tradition, relationship, fun, laughter, tears, work, play, and learning.
I love the church so much I became part of leading it because I thought, with proper leadership, it had the power to change the world! To date I have worked at seven church, three of which I helped start from scratch, plus countless other churches as a guest speaker or consultant. Perhaps this is is my non-spandex/capewearing/superhero way of being a part of changing the world? I love it and it has been a steady pillar in my crazy life.
Until last year.
Last August, at the direction of loving, astute supervisors and with very little warning, I walked out of a church I birthed and never returned. I had to walk away to save myself. For months I cried deep, wrenching sobs every sunday. I was white hot angry at pastors who whined about their jobs and was booger green jealous at those churches that seemed to thrive even under weak, careless or (what was that Pence word?) oh, “feckless” leadership. I still tear up when I think of those people and duck around corners when I see them because I don’t feel I can talk without tearing up and making us all feel uncomfortable.
But it isn’t just my church I got cut off on. It seems to be every church. When I try and visit church I shake, break into cold sweats, am over the top anxious and due to naseau feel ready to toss my communion wafers and grape juice. I have tried arriving late so I don’t have to interact, earplugs and several other calming techniques, to no avail. “Why does this happen?”, people ask me. I don’t fecking (pence word) know, anymore than I know how to fix it. I hate it and feel like I am being unjustly kept from oxygen.
Without the life raft and ritual of church I am still adrift but finding patience to wait for my health to catch up with my hope. I have had to remind myself that going to church doesn’t equal faith; that’s just ritual. It has re-prioritized my relationship with God to be what it always should have been, focused on Christ not on the gathering of people. I can now focus on what I have and not what I’ve lost, the beautiful collective expression of faith.
So, relax people. My not going to church doesn’t mean I’m going straight to hell, just to starbucks. Judge that coffee snobs, not my faith.