i hate being late. i avoid it but am sometimes. and i hate it.
i was two minutes late to church on saturday evening. i half walked half jogged through the front doors. i was greeted no less than four times. with each kind word, i became less anxious and more focused on why i was there. by the time i found a seat and settled in, i had calmed down.
i hadn’t been to my church in almost four months, but i had gotten a postcard in the mail introducing a new sermon series. i felt like i needed to go. i felt the pull. so i went.
it’s not that i don’t like church. i do. every time, it gives me feelings of joy, peace, forgiveness, and hope. but i also get those feelings from a long walk alone in the warm sun, a difficult hike in the canyon with pauses to experience the beauty and quietness, listening to patty griffin’s music, and reading books by brennan manning and brene brown. i just have a complicated relationship with “church” itself.
one of my first experiences with church that i remember is when i was a child and my parents were helping our pastor move. he was getting kicked out of the parsonage. i remember it was at night and it was quickly. i still don’t know the details of what happened, but i knew at the time that the situation was wrong. my parents left that church. the next church was in a small town and ostracized my parents when politics within the school spilled over into the church. my dad worked for a baptist church after that. i saw things and experienced things in that church during a very impressionable age as a teenager. it was with that church that the doubt truly began. i worked for the following church we attended. i met some amazing people there. but i also met some very selfish, manipulative liars who took advantage of good people too. that experience especially left a bad taste in my mouth. i didn’t attend church often for several years afterwards.
i still don’t attend regularly. when i want to go, i go. i love the music, the message, and communion. in fact, communion is when i feel the strongest connection to the fellowship. it’s such a simple yet powerful ritual. i get very emotional when i take communion. this past saturday, i could hear a woman behind me during communion. after she prayed over the little wafer, she said firmly and lovingly, “thank you”. she did the same with the little cup of grape juice. to me, that’s what it’s about…a personal experience of gratitude and connection.
so when i need that experience, i go. when i don’t feel that pull, i choose a different form of worship for myself. i know some people don’t understand it and that’s okay. but it’s my faith, and i’ll treat it how i feel is best.
“church” is just hard for me. i doubt “church”. i even doubt christians sometimes. but faith? that’s easy. my faith is simple and personal. i believe in God, Jesus, and grace. i believe in good people. i believe in a greater plan and a better future. i believe in a heaven where i will see my nonnie and granddad again. i believe because i want to. because i have to. because i just do.
i think i’ll probably always struggle with the idea of church. i have my experiences and they’ll be will me forever. but as long as i have my faith, i can live with the struggle.