May 10, 2013

on the church thing...

It's been a long time since I've written anything about my faith. It's been nearly four years since I first wrote about my struggles with finding a church home. I have grown a lot since then, even though many of my original hopes, concerns and frustrations still remain.

But I will say that in the past four years, I've learned a lot of things.

I realized just how important having a church home is to me, especially since the arrival of my daughter. The memories I have of dressing up every Sunday, attending Sunday school and VBS, memorizing bible verses, feeling that safety and comfort…these are things that I want for Eisley, and any future children we may have someday. I know Jay was raised in the same way—missing church on any Sunday just felt awkward—and I know this is important to him, too. I want Eisley to be surrounded by people who love and support her in ways beyond just basic caring and kindness. A church family provides that.

I realized that just because I am now officially a member of our church (Lutheran, Missouri Synod) doesn't mean that I have to think that this specific denomination is the be-all and end-all of Christianity. I know that this isn't something you see across the board, but the general feeling I get from many churches I've attended (not just Lutheran, but a few different denominations) is that they are the ones who "got it right". I, on the other hand, have no qualms with anyone who is a Christian and worships differently than my church does.

(In fact, I much prefer a more untraditional, carefree sort of service—especially when it comes to music and communion.)

I realized that there are other places I can be spiritually fulfilled and encouraged, and that my church doesn't necessarily have to be the only thing I rely on. If I'm being completely honest, I'd love for our church to be a place filled with like-minded young parents, with many opportunities to connect with other women my age. I'd love for our church to be big enough that Jay and I don't have to switch off every other week: one of us watching Eisley in the nursery, while the other one sits alone in a pew. But it's likely that will not happen for some time. Luckily, there's one girl my age at church that I've bonded with a lot recently, and I'm also hoping to actually make some sort of grand effort to also join a Christian mommy-meetup-sort-of-a-thing. So, there's that.

I've also been realizing that I'm so envious of people who live and breathe Jesus. For the past handful of years, I've been much more comfortable keeping my beliefs tucked away in a place that is just for me. But that's also the reason I've reached a place where I'm not at all growing or thriving or learning or sharing. Or any of that. My desire to do more with my faith—to learn more and be more—is almost a physical need at this point. Sometimes I just feel like crying because I feel so stuck.

I want to rediscover that relationship I had with God when it felt like all my thoughts went right to him, and that he was such an integral part of everything. Not in a showy, Ta-da! Look at how religious I am! sort of way—but in an authentic, personal way that made my days calmer, my decisions easier.

I was really dragging my feet for a long, long time when it came to actually becoming a member of our church. I was stubborn, hurt, and a little bit annoyed over a few things that weren't as big of a deal as I'd made them out to be. Although there are still things about the Lutheran church that I don't necessarily thing are the only way to do things, my understanding of why they do them a certain way has grown—so, I can finally look at them with appreciation for what they are (and no longer general annoyance or hurt feelings).

However, I must admit I felt quite awkward being welcomed to the church in front of the whole congregation. It wouldn't have been a big deal, but after having attended with Jay for so many years, I may have well already been a member. I confided in a friend about how all I could think of was how people were looking at me, thinking, "Oh, how sweet! Jay's wife has finally converted!" She laughed with me and made me feel not so lame about my paranoia, but still. All I really wanted to do was preface the whole service by saying, "I was raised in the Lutheran church, folks! I'm not just now seeing the light!"

Odds are, there wasn't anyone thinking anything negative about me (especially because I've known most people in congregation for many years now, and they've been nothing but kind) but if you know me well, you know that the tendency to over-think absolutely everything is one of my many tragic flaws.

At this point in time, I realize that perhaps I build things up too much in my head. And perhaps the tiny, friendly church we attend is actually enough for us right now. Who knows if we could ever find another church that both Jay and I would enjoy equally? (We did actually try out a couple other churches, but I could tell his heart wasn't in it.) I've always hated the idea of settling on a church, because I think that faith is more important than that. So, I've tried my best to stop thinking of it in that way. Because that's not really fair to anyone.

I desperately want to be more fulfilled spiritually, but much of that is up to me. It's not just about church, or the number of people in the congregation, or the number of kids that are the same age as Eisley, or whether I walk away from church every Sunday on a cloud of inspiration. At a certain point, I have to own my faith and work hard to reconnect with other Christians.

But if there's one thing that I will say, it's that I feel like I need to attend seminary specifically to study the Lutheran hymnal because sweet mercy. Hymns, man. Whenever I can figure out the tune by verse seven, I feel like someone owes me a cookie.

As with everything in life, this whole situation always shifting and changing. Some weeks I struggle with it more than others, but I'm finally at a point where I can be mostly content with where we go to church—if only for the incredible people there who have taken our little family under their wings and given us so much love. One thing I've learned in the past four years is that there's nothing quite like being somewhere everyone cares about you, (almost) everyone knows you, and everyone is genuinely happy to see you when you walk through that door every Sunday morning.

That's something I am always grateful for.

12 comments :

  1. I've absolutely been there (and as a pastor's wife, it's a little difficult to say, "Hey, I'm not digging this church"). But we've recently found a church we both love and it's made such a huge difference. I hope you find that faith community you're looking for, in or out of church!

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  2. I have way too many thoughts on this to leave a real comment because it would be, like, 9 paragraphs. Let me just say: thank you. I get this. All of this. And I hope someday we can chat about it in person over coffee or something.

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    1. Yes, ma'am. We need to connect soon! I've been meaning to email and every little thing keeps getting in the way. But thank you for understanding! That's what always feels best…writing a post like this and realizing there are so many other people in a similar situations, with the same things on their hearts.

      <3

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  3. I wish we could talk about this. I recently headed back to church and am part of a community starting a church at my yoga studio (wayyyy cooler than it sounds) and it's really hard. Last night, my priest (that's a weird sentence to type) said, "There's nothing wrong with creating the church to which we wish we belonged" --- so yes, going on Sundays is good, but for you, I pray you find a group of ladies to provide that community you're seeking beyond the Lutheran church. Love you friend.

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  4. Let's start s skype-blogger-bible study! Or just the two of us with our bibles and some wine. ;)

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  5. This is so incredibly similar to what we went through at the time of Meredith's birth - when our old church closed down because of our pastor's betrayal. I was totally lost spiritually for well over a year. We finally joined a church a couple months ago after a lot of deliberating and it was so not a big deal, but it felt like it to us! We haven't made any deep connections yet but I'm trying!!

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  6. I completely get this! We go to a non-denominational church in our town but something just feels off. I absolutely love the pastor & he is the main reason we still attend. But I want more that just a pastor. I want what I had growing up for my kids & I don't feel they are getting that. I also need a girls group for which I feel I belong & not like I just a wheel that's out of place because my husband isn't a doctor. I like Ti's idea of a skype blogger bible study! And wine! :)

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  7. So crazy! All of a sudden in my life I have felt the same way. I think God is doing something big in lot of peoples lives right now.

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  8. I've been feeling this way too, not so much about the church we're in (because we LOVE our church), but in my relationship with God. At our women's Bible study, we're looking at Francis Chan's book, The Forgotten God. It's about the Holy Spirit and how we often forget that He is always with us, and how to get to a place where we feel we have a constant connection to Him. So prayer isn't something we only do at bedtime, or when we're in trouble, and it isn't just a list of requests, but it's more like an on-going conversation. We're only 1 chapter in, but I've already sense that something is different (in a good way).

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  9. I feel so much of this right now. I could have written this myself!

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  10. I had a hard time when meeting my husband, becoming a part of his church, which is Lutheran (ELCA synod - Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). I grew up in a non-denominational contemporary church. A lot different than what he was a part of. We were more open ended. At the Lutheran church it felt more scripted and for a long time, I thought that this "scriptedness" too away from the church experience.

    Now...5 years after we met, I have finally opened myself up to the amazing thing that is his church -- OUR church. And I"m finally becoming a member this year. I came to realize that God is all over the place. You just have to find him. :) I finally am feeling the most fulfilled in my spirituality than I have in MANY years...Maybe as many as 10 years....

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    1. It feels good to hear from someone that went through a lot of the same emotions that I did (and still sometimes do), and came around to the other side. I've been trying to open my heart up for so long, but it's just not happening to the extent I wish it would. I guess there is still hope, and at least I don't feel like such an outsider anymore!

      Part of me wonders how my husband would handle it if things were reversed, too. If he had to work so hard to feel at home somewhere that was such a perfect fit for me. But I guess that's just how it goes with certain things!

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