Sunday in this home involves my husband and sometimes my children disappearing for the morning service of our church while I take time to reflect, catch up on rest, or bury myself in some form of creativity.
Until recently I was involved in a local church with my family. For five years we have attended, worked hard with and basically sunk ourselves into the fibre of this organisation. However I never really felt I fit. No matter how I tried. No matter that they tried. So I stopped trying because I felt I had to become someone else to gain approval. My fault for not sticking to my guns and remaining authentic throughout but I honestly didn't know differently and every time I stuck my head up, I felt someone else push me back down again. I really wanted to belong. To participate and be a part of something great. Bottom line, I became miserable in church. Weird huh, cause I don't think that is the desired outcome. So I left. No easy thing when I have been singing a certain tune for years and suddenly I want out. But I cannot stay if I am no longer convinced. Conviction is vital and I just couldn't back what we stood for anymore.
I have come to the conclusion that church is not one-size-fits-all. I do not believe that when God talked about church community in the bible, He meant an organisation, a business, nor a corporation. Rather that folk be in relationship with Him, their lives transformed by His Spirit and then effecting the world around them. Our families, our communities, our friends and those we come in contact with. Not forcing it's way onto every given platform, but gently permeating the atmosphere with fantastic lives and a humble, loving attitude for those around us. Respectfully for we have no right to speak into others lives without permission. Without relationship.
It was not all in vain. I learned some valuable lessons about myself, about God and about others. I was definitely a better person for having gone in the first place but it no longer remained a healthy place for me to be. I am not angry just sad that things couldn't have worked out differently. It was such a large part of my life and remains as such for my husband. A shame we never really shared in it together. We had such separate lives in church, his experience being vastly different to mine. He felt supported, inspired and continues because it is helpful for him. I love my husband dearly and I am glad his experience of church is positive. I will always support his wishes and dreams.
Faith is such a private thing. It is not proclaimed through my clever use of words, nor through my works but rather how other people experience me I'm guessing. I have become abhorrent of manipulation - something I watch for in my own life. I must say, I don't believe I am a great billboard for my Heavenly Father. But faith is a given for me. Like breathing. I do not spend every conscious moment concentrating "inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale" but still, I breathe and remain breathing. This is my relationship with God. It just is. I don't need to qualify it, I don't need to advertise it, and I certainly don't always understand it. At best it is a deep sense of purpose and security, at worse it is filled with potholes of doubt. For faith to exist, doubt must also abide I'm thinking.
My own life and my own personal understanding of where I am with God is based on what God says and what Christ did for me. This is where it started for me and for now is enough. It always has been.
Do I want another church? No thanks. I don't think they vary much. And the one I went to is awesome and if I was to do church, then this would be the place. The people are cool, the teachings are great and the purpose is worthy. The pastors are genuine in my opinion. As are the leaders in Auckland. In a personal setting, I loved their hearts. So godly, loving, respectful, NORMAL and generous. Somehow this doesn't translate to the body of the church. It felt legalistic and impersonal.
I don't know how big churches survive. Perhaps people get used to being shepherded like sheep to whatever corner suits the agenda. Perhaps (and I'm hoping so) there is another way of being in church that leaves one satisfied and inspired. If I could find it, I'd probably go back. I am becoming convinced that the church God has formed for me includes all the people I've ever known, those that have loved me and helped me grow and, those who I can love and help grow too.
Well I am praying and reflecting on this one. I know my spirit will not settle until it is satisfied. But thankfully I have a deep peace and this is enough. This is a ramble but given that today is always a poignant one, perhaps that is enough. It is time I cleared out the attic, aired some things and made room for new growth. God willing ...