Yesterday, I nervously walked into a church for the first time in many, many months. Sunday mornings have become my refuge, my only time of the week that I am truly alone. I love people, and especially my people, but too much consecutive time with people makes me twitchy. As an introvert who doesn’t like to feel needed all the time, I feel a constant tension. It’s a pull between passionately loving my children who feel like an extension of my heart and body, and the internal voice that screams LEAVE ME ALONE!!! when I reach my limit. So for the better part of a year, my Sunday mornings have been about solitude: writing, reading, sipping hot (not re-heated) coffee while being still, and occasionally listening to a sermon podcast while folding laundry. All things I think Jesus would approve of, by the way.
But still, I miss church. I miss the routine of it, the familiarity of hymn and scriptures being read aloud, and the sense of community. I’ve been so hesitant to “go back” though, because really, I don’t have anywhere to go back to. My physical distance, as well as my theology, has shifted since I was going to church regularly. I find myself longing for the church style of my childhood, which may just be a longing for nostalgia of a simpler time- the hymns, the organ, the doxology and benediction. And for some time, I’ve desired to be at a church with women leading worship- I’ve been at churches for so long where such is forbidden, and I long to be somewhere where that is not the case.
So somehow, maybe through divine intervention, yesterday I walked into the little Presbyterian church I attended in my preschool years. While I don’t remember specifics from that time, except for one anxiety-inducing Noah’s ark performance where 5 or 6 year old me was cast as a turtle and told to shake my bottom (nope), the sanctuary felt familiar. At the time, my mom was the choir director at this church, and yesterday as the choir sang, I pictured her leading the choir in their long robes (I haven’t seen choir robes at church in forever!). The people were so kind and welcoming, and the predictability and familiarity of the service was peaceful.
Part of the sermon was on doubt, and the legitimacy of questioning, and doubting. I appreciated this because of where I am right now. I never ever thought I would struggle so much with doubt at this point in my life- doubt about what I believe as well as how to continue on as a “doubt filled believer” as Rachel Held Evans puts it. I’ve seen memes posted berating people for leaving the church because the church is full of hypocrites. I don’t think this is why most people leave the church- it’s not why I left. I left not because of hypocrisy, but because of theology. I don’t want to pour my life into a place that doesn’t affirm women in leadership, or LGBT inclusion, or speak out publicly and loudly about issues like racism, the refugee crisis, or violence. I don’t want to attend church where Biblical issues aren’t nuanced and different interpretations of scripture aren’t welcomed for discussion.
I don’t know where my spiritual and church life is headed, or if I’ll go back to that little church. I’m trying to give myself the grace that Jesus has given me. I know he is patient, and faithful in this painful, yet hopeful process.