I know that I am woefully behind on writing about our move and I promise I’m working on some stuff. However, we started looking for churches today and I needed to work some stuff out about that whole bag of weird. So, come along if you like.
I just wrote out an entire paragraph outlining my church experience and deleted it because it doesn’t really matter and I probably would have offended someone needlessly. The point I think that I was trying to make in that paragraph was that I love Jesus, I love the Bible, I love music, and growing up with thinking parents and pastors who have challenged my way of thinking, my spectrum for what is “acceptable” in a church is pretty broad. My hills to die on right now are: God is who He says He is in the Bible, the Bible is God’s Word and to be followed, respected, loved, and known, that women are valued in God’s eyes and worthy in the eyes of their brothers in Christ to do more than bake cookies for their Men’s Breakfasts, and that children aren’t dumb just ’cause they’re small, but aren’t knowledgeable just ’cause they’re humans. This can’t really be a hill to die on, but I really want a kick-ass worship team. And, if the pastor’s spouse gets the occasional set of giggles during church, I’m down with that.
This morning, the day of our first church visit here, I woke up with a super bad attitude. I got dressed and realized that I was wearing all black, my lace up motorcycle boots, and lots of rings. I looked like I was going to pick a fight. I felt like I was going to pick a fight.
I backed off a little, switched my lace up boots for some more casual zip up ones, got out a pretty blue sweater, and took off a few rings.
The bad attitude remained quite intact, though. It has taken me a while to sort out what I’m going through. First of all, I loved my church in Colorado. I didn’t love everything about it, but my hills to die on really got sorted out there. They also had a kick-ass worship team. I was stretched and challenged in ways I didn’t even know were possible and I came away from there with a very healthy sense of who I am and who God is. Secondly, I really just wanted to bring our church with us and I’m struggling still that I can’t do that. Thirdly, I grew up as a pastor’s kid and if you think that is a comfortable position, it really, really isn’t. But, my parents helped me get through the awkwardness and taught me to be gracious and kind even when I feel weird. I love having had that training, but I don’t like having to fall back on it, which is what I have to do when visiting a church. I mean, seriously, let’s make the visitors stand up in front of everyone and clap for them? Why is that still a thing? That’s really weird!
Really, though, the bad attitude is a cover up for how scared I am right now. I liked my church. I was comfortable there. Mostly. I don’t want to be stretched to find a new place. I’m afraid that we won’t find a place that answers all my hills to die on. Or, that the worship team won’t be very good. Or that I will be pressured to get into ministry before I’m ready. One of my biggest fears is that I am going get back into some abusive types of relationships that I’ve experienced before. I’m still healing up from some of those and I don’t want to get near those types of people with a ten foot pole. I’m afraid I won’t be able to navigate around those people with dignity and grace. And, yeah, I’m afraid that I might screw something up when I join a church. I haven’t done things correctly in the past, I’ve been a jerk, I’ve been wrong, I’ve had to fall on my face before God and repent, and I am afraid that I am going to hurt people, or make things hard for someone, or be the weird-o that people try to avoid.
To be clear, the fears about myself aren’t overwhelming, or large, or even a major part of how I’m feeling. It’s in there, though, and maybe it’s in some of your brains about yourself, too, and seeing it spelled out will help to deal with it. I’m dealing with it and probably will continue to struggle with to some extent my entire life.
I want so much to help my church, to be gentle, to be smart about how I handle myself, to encourage people, to love them sacrificially, but also to have boundaries and not be taken advantage of (You can sing AND play piano AND play flute AND you can lead a choir AND you can write curriculum AND you can teach kids AND teach adults? YOU MUST DO ALL THE THINGS!).
Now that I’m working this out it’s no wonder I’m having a hard time with starting to find a church. Whew!
So, yeah, back to this morning. I got a little un-gothed, and we left for church. We had a…fine..experience…? It met most of my requirements. There was one of my hills to die on that got a little slippery there towards the end. It’s not home and that’s okay.
On my way out, I realized that I have never not found a church on my first try. I was born into our church, so it’s kind of hard to not be content as an infant. I went to college and found a church on the first try that worked pretty well. After about six months there, someone with a car offered to drive me to the church I really wanted to go to and I spent more then 10 years there. We moved to Colorado and visited exactly one church and found home. So, this experience of “not the church” is a first. I want to handle myself very carefully during this elimination process.
I don’t want to be bitter, angry, or dumb about a church when we decide it’s not the one. Probably 90% of the churches we will visit are going to be full of people I will grow to love in heavenly eternity. It would be tragic if my only earthly contact with them was a crappy attitude. I have to be honest that my crappy attitude can sometimes manifest itself with being smirky about something or being overly bright in my conversation. I really want people to be sorry we didn’t end up going to their church, not super glad we are someone else’s problem.
I think that a really good step for me as I work some stuff out is to pray for every church, daily, for the week after we visit. Going in, I will know that I am going to pray for this church for a week, even if I never step foot inside it again. I think that will help me drop the bad attitude, leave my armor at the door, maybe stray into my pretty summer dress area of my closet, and it just might help me be loving and kind to the people around me. Most importantly, it will allow me to leave with humility, with grace, and in prayer for the people of that church.
This could be a long haul. It could be months and I could be very tired by the end of it. Maybe we will find home next week. Who really knows. With this new attitude, though, I think the long haul is less terrifying and exhausting.
If one Sunday, Greg and I want to skip church, emulate Anne Shirley and “go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then just feel a prayer”, then I think we should go do that. God is probably way cooler with that than we would like to believe.