At the end of June, Chris and I made the decision that it was time to find a church closer to home…but it was more than that. To be honest, I needed a break from church.
Perhaps, this isn’t the most “correct” confession to make but it’s true. I have been wrestling for a while…asking questions like “Why do I go to church?” and “Why do I struggle so much with church?” To be blatantly honest, there are times that I have confessed to God that I love people; it’s just Christians I can’t stand. This statement is over exaggerated because I have some wonderful Christian friends and extended family members, whom I love dearly and respect deeply but my greatest frustrations, disappointments and disillusionments have been with people who claim to love Jesus.
I have never “fit” in the church setting.
I’ve tried – I’ve really tried. I’ve led women’s and mixed bible studies for years, signed for the deaf, volunteered at big functions, taught youth, “puppeteered” with the young children, taught a discipling class, counselled, mentored one-on-one, made myself available, prayed and tithed. I’ve tried not to be critical, prayed for grace, extended kindness, joined in worship, forgiven, prayed authentically, joyfully sang and supported those in need.
I’ve also left the building and wept in frustration, slammed the car door in anger and felt alone, misunderstood and hopeless. I’m not proud of this behavior but it’s happened…more than once.
There have been many moments that I’ve just wanted to give up. I have reasoned that I could love God and serve people but not attend church. It hasn’t been a crisis in faith – I love Jesus – it’s been a crisis in church going.
Having written all this, I also want to say that I am very aware that this is MY problem. I know there will never be a perfect church on this side of heaven because every church is filled with imperfect, sinful people – like me.
But I have been weary and leery.
Yesterday, Chris and I visited a church that is closer to home. As we shuffled into our chairs, I noticed a big wooden cross had been erected in the center of the room. I found myself looking at the cross during the entire sermon.
The pastor spoke on “being offended.” It was a wonderful and relevant sermon, filled with simple truth and spoken with humility. At the end of the sermon, the pastor said something like, “Look..we’ve been talking about being offended. If a name has come to mind, deal with it. Write that person’s name on a piece of paper and nail it to the cross.”
After the sermon was over, I quietly went over to the cross, wrote down a name, picked up a hammer and nailed it to the cross.
All afternoon, I was thinking about what I had done…and I realized that I could have written more than one name. It was a “stake in the ground” moment for me when I was able to put a name to the feelings that I have experienced about people who had hurt me in church.
I have been offended. I thought I have forgiven but I’ve never nailed their names to the cross.
What a freeing revelation.
I desire to experience true community in church…but it’s gotta’ start with me dealing with my sin.