My church and why I hate it
I know from the title the assumptions are already flying but bear with me.
My church. This is the first time I’ve ever says those words. My church. It’s mine. It’s not where I go. It’s not our church, not my family’s church. No, it’s mine. It’s where God lives. This is the first church I have every been in where God is real. Where his presence is palpable. Where he waits for people like me.
There was a quote I shared a while back that a friend sent during an extremely difficult time- God is waiting in the ruins. For lack of better words, the church is my ruins. It’s where I have been beat down (literally and figuratively). It’s where I have been shamed and gossiped about, lied about and rejected. It’s where I have been hurt over and over and over again. It’s where I have been neglected and isolated. It’s where I have been used and abused. The church is the place that is a wasteland for me. In church, God is dead for me. It’s where he cares for others around me yet stands by while I’m hurting and dying. Church is where you come and stand and sing and sit and stand and pray and sing and sing and sit and smile and leave, Sunday after Sunday. It’s where you are forced to volunteer for everything whether your heart is in it or not. Church is full of pretty people, smiling, shaking your hand, asking how you are, pretending to be excited to see you with a Pollyanna-style “Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!” when they see you but what it really is is a tank full of sharks, circling, looking for the weakness, the story, the scoop. Church is where you bolt your doors, board up the windows, and act like no one is home. You show nothing but cheerful smiles andonly reply “Good!” to every person who asks how you are because they don’t REALLY want to know except maybe to see you suffer. You stand still and sing every word on key and without emotion. You sit with your ankles crossed and Bible in your hands (and not your You Version app on your smartphone either). It’s not until you leave that you can breathe again, relax, and go back to your sucky, painful life.
Or at least that’s how it used to be. I came to this church almost a year ago and I tried to treat it like every other church I have been to in my life. But the passion was evident and hard to ignore. Something was different in a way that I’ve never experienced because in my history, feeling anything was sinful and from the Devil because God doesn’t use emotions and feelings. Before I knew it, I was on the team at church that sets up before service, signs kids into children’s church, and greets people as they came in. But something else was pulling me in… The worship team. I love music and every Sunday it called to me. I wanted to be part of it. The team displayed the passion that I felt inside but kept pushed deep down. Week after week, though, it got harder and harder to fight as the words to the songs tugged at my heart. The worship leader said I had to audition…I almost passed out just thinking about it. Fast forward a few week after a great deal of procrastination (mostly due to dread and lack of confidence) I auditioned and stress sweat through the entire thing. Somehow I was ok enough to be on the team (shocking, I know).
Finally came the first Sunday I got to sing with these amazing people and when I say it changed everything, I LITERALLY mean it changed everything. It was just a normal Sunday but as I stood in a place that had been nothing but ruins for me until now, God was waiting. As we walked on stage, I shook from the inside out, wondering why on Earth I had said yes to this. But then I looked in the back of the building and saw God. While it wasn’t actually God standing there, smiling at me, with two thumbs held high in the air, he was in the prayers of that man who has consistently cheered for me since I met him in a way only a godly father figure can do. Me… The person who is a nobody to him. And in that moment, God was no longer standing at the back. He was holding my hand and breaking my walls down, one at a time. THIS is my church.
(Now for the blasphemy…)
And I hate it. I do (ish) but not in the sense that you would think so don’t duck away while lightening strikes my words. I hate that every song seeps into my heart and connects me to God and brings the tears. I hate that every message touches me in every area of my life and makes me cry yet again. I look like an emotionally unable person every Sunday because I cannot escape God here. I hate that it pulls me out of my comfort zone (the music, the messages that even get preached by a woman *cue the collective independent fundamental Baptist gasp*…more on this later). And as much as I hate the vulnerability, as much as I want to hide and stay inside my walls, I love it. I love that I finally know what it means for God to be waiting in the ruins. I love the realness. I love the passion. I love that it’s contagious. While I hope and pray that I don’t fall flat on my face the moment I let go and start to lean into God, sometimes you just have to jump because you just might fly *or be carried on the wings of the Almighty*