As of late, this is largely how I’ve begun to feel within the churchy world. So Rachel Held Evans’ post this week about Why I left the church struck a chord; though I’m not contemplating going anywhere, I resonated with her frustrations.
Instead of withdrawing, I’ve made the decision engage further; I know the situation isn’t perfect, but I’m not waiting on perfection. As KLR likes to say, I want to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. We’ve found a group of people who seem genuine, kind and welcoming. There’s an organic feel to the church. When you meet in the banquet room of a shanty hotel, you’re really dependent on welcoming others with your people, not your facilities or programs. I like that.
But, much like Evans has found, sticking around can be exhausting. I sometimes feel like I’m stuffing my emotions under, or even living a double life. I’ve started to participate in the youth ministry and enjoy it to the hilt – it’s like my ministry blood has started flowing again, energizing my limbs that I never knew were sleeping. Talking to the girls, even playing silly games, fits like my Reef sandals on the first day of Spring.
But returning to something offers a viewpoint of how much has changed, namely: Me. I flinched when the leader used the word “saved” in a talk. Why? I have no idea. We talked about how to have a quiet time, a discipline I love and depend on, a morning ritual that has become my main outlet of peace in tumultuous life. So while I love passing on the knowledge and skills of spending time with God, I’m saddened when it comes across to students as yet another thing to do, another way that proves they’re not enough when they don’t follow through on their goals to become more diligent. Hearing the girls’ frustrations and fears made me want to cuddle them up and say, “But God loves you and this doesn’t define your life with God.” But I was afraid they wouldn’t let me come back next week.
My view of God and the Church evolved a lot over the past 5 years or so. I feel like it’s roomier, and I’ve allowed some boundaries of belief to become a bit more of a semi-permeable membrane as opposed to a stone fence. I’m okay with it; my relationship with God has flourished, as opposed to floundered, because of it.
But in becoming more internally spacious, I feel a bit crammed into the larger context of Christian subculture. Like I’m trying to wedge myself in, shoulder first. I want to be a part. But sometimes I feel like there’s just not room at the table.
I’m not asking that people agree. I’m not looking for people just like me; I’m looking for people who accept and respect me if I disagree. I’m looking for a faith family that loves us all because of – not in spite of – differences.