Today I thought quite a bit about being broken.
I decided very quietly a few days ago not to give up something for Lent. I decided instead to do something. I decided to go to church. Like I said, I decided quietly. I didn’t tell very many people. Probably because I wanted to leave myself space to back out but also because I didn’t want a rush of invitations. Those invitations are always awkward for me because although I love them and make a mental note of them, I don’t know when I can make good on them.
For reasons I can’t entirely explain, I am terrified of attending church again. It started years back and the years in between have seemed to always solidified that fear. Maybe that’s because (as the Rock Man said on the Harry Nillson album, The Point) “You see what you want to see and you hear what you want to hear, you dig?”. Here’s the list as best I can articulate it.
- I have watched my home church slowly implode. They are working and scrambling to find the perfect program that will bring in the “right kind of people” and have in the process managed to decrease attendance and look really stupid. And, oh yeah, they fired my dad and then lied about it.
- My Mother is a compulsive church-goer. She has given some of the best parts of her life to a congregation who doesn’t appear to appreciate the gift. As a result, we miss those best parts and the people who get them don’t seem to care.
- I don’t fit the church demographic as I have known it. I’m single and I have yet to vote Republican. Sometimes it has felt that there isn't a place for me.
- When they have places, they are singles groups.
- And singles groups are by nature creepy.
- Because I am not trolling the churches for a husband.
- But plenty of guys are trolling the churches for a wife.
- The bit of depression I deal with has done a number on my self esteem and sometimes it’s terrifying to put myself “out there” to new people. I do far better getting to know people when we work together at something I am good at
- And I am not good at church
- Because (and this is the most definitive answer I can find) church has always been a place where you have to be perfect
- Or at least really, really, good.
- And lots of times, I am just not.
I can give an answer for every single item on that list (so don't try to give me any, please.), but at Sunday morning wake up time, none of them hold water.
So I stopped going. I have stopped a couple of times. Once it was when some dear friendships came crashing down on me and a Sunday School class sort of dissolved simultaneously. Another time, there was a church split and change in pastors. There’s never been a great reason to leave, just somehow I would loose interest and spend a year or so out of the habit. This time, except for a two month stint visiting a church, it’s been about four years since I have regularly been to church. What’s funny is that I have managed to grow outside of the church. I have at times even felt so fulfilled that I tell myself I may never go back. Most of the time, however, I tell myself (and others) that I am “between churches”. Somehow, even though I have no concrete plan to return, I believe that.
So for Lent this year, it just didn’t seem right to give up some form of junk food. Sure, I need to go on a diet, but I don’t want to spiritualize my weight issues. I liked the idea of doing something positive for the season, so I decided to go back to church.
Somehow on the first Sunday of Lent, I didn’t wake up vomiting at the thought of going back. I wasn’t excited and I thought about staying in, but there was none of the vomity fear. So I got dressed (despite the wee sabotage I set by not planning my wardrobe) and headed out. I didn’t want to cash in on the several invitations that were extended. No one would mark “visitor brought” on their offering envelope on my account. No one would get points to their heavenly toaster oven (the one I am convinced you must win if you get me to your church). Today it would be private. I thought about visiting a new place, but the denomination would be new to me and this didn’t need to be the Sunday to think about when to sit or stand or say “debt” in the Lord’s Prayer when everyone else said “trespass”. I visited the last place I visited on my own because I had already broken the discomfort barrier there. They sing the songs we sang when I was a kid (and liked church) and it’s easy to slip in the back and smile back when people smile at me. They’re friendly, but they won’t come knocking on my door tomorrow night to have me join the women’s ministry. You might have something to say about whether that’s the type of church to join, but it’s a good one to visit when you just need to sit quietly with Jesus for a while.
So I did. I sat with Jesus for a while today. We’re talking about some stuff and I’ll tell you about it soon.