I'm finally ready to make a truthful confession. I haven't been to church in a year, and I haven't even attempted to find another one. I'm not backslidden, I don't hate God, I don't dislike the church, I have just stopped going. I'm not going to lie to people any more, to tell them we're "in a transition", or that we just didn't "fit" into the last two churches we were in. I honestly can't say at this point when or if we will ever go back.
But why? Church has been an integral part of my life ever since I was small. Why would I just simply walk away?
Because I couldn't answer the one question that haunted me.
Jana, do you know me?
I thought I knew God, and how to live my life in the right way. I thought I knew what pleased him, and more importantly what displeased him. Of course I was "saved by grace" but I thought if I just repeated the Bible often enough, or if I attended church enough, or took care of babies in the nursery, or if I made coffee and served it to people, that would make the difference. But, the question kept coming. Louder. Stronger. So, I dived into teaching by pastors, and my anxiety grew. I was so consciously aware of the fact that I could never live up to the things that they preached, it was physically painful. I knew that deep down I could never truly be good, kind, thoughtful, respectful, loyal and on. and on. and on. So I pretended that I was those things until I finally knew the truth. I was a total and complete fraud.
On a Sunday morning, I would see my three precious children, dressed up, hair brushed and perfect, standing in our row, and all I could hear was the anger in my voice as I told them to hurry up and eat - we'd be late. The shouting I'd done over where exactly everyone's shoes were. The complaining I'd done all the way to the front door about running the coffee cart, and the knot I carried in my gut that both longed to be welcomed by people, but pushed people away because getting too close to people hurts. The smile on my face was followed by the distinct flavor of bitterness. Still, I couldn't answer that question.
Jana, do you know me?
It's been a strange year, not in church. Sometimes frightening. Sometimes lonely. But sometimes, beautiful and exciting. I have had the opportunity to start to really get to know the heart of Father. To ask some deep questions myself, even questions that sound heretical to my own ears, but that are always answered or discussed, or left for another time. I'm not afraid any more, and I can honestly say that we've had "church" come to us, in conversation, outings, driving to places, even at the very top of an old fashioned Ferris wheel.
I'm not saying this path is for everyone, I'm not here to convince you. It just happens to be the one I'm on. Walking with Father day by day.