I’m about to write about something that may be a little touchy for some folks. I’m going to write about why I’m not going to church right now. That’s right, I said it “out loud” on the internet. I think most people close to me know I’m not going right now, but I haven’t actually said the words to very many people. I’m not looking for a church right now either and I’ll tell you why. But, fair warning, I’ll be talking about my experiences with the church shortly after Jordan died. If you were close to me during that time (you probably still are) some of the things I say may hurt you. I’m not trying to do that. I got support after Jordan died. I know I did, otherwise I don’t know where I’d be today. What I’m talking about is not the actions of any individual person. I’m not trying to attack anyone, I’m trying to explain my disenchantment with church (any church) at the moment. Basically, I’m sorry if what I say hurts you. If you’re not in the mood for something emotional maybe skip this.
As stated above, I’m not going to church right now. I’m not looking for a church right now. I’ve finally managed to sift through the mire of what I believe and don’t believe. To set some people’s minds at ease, yes I still believe in God and Jesus. I’ve believed in both of those things all my life, I pretty much don’t know how to not believe in God. So why wouldn’t I want to go to church? Why not go and worship the God I believe in? Well, for a number of complicated reasons.
1. Abandonment issues.
When Jordan died it seemed that many aspects of the church just crumbled around me. I’m not saying everybody started ignoring me. Right after, I was visited almost daily, I had meals brought to me, people helped me pack and move and I was hardly ever alone. And then suddenly I was. I was all alone. After a few months, visits got less frequent and finding people to hang out with was more difficult. I know people have lives and things had to eventually start to resemble what life was like before Jordan passed. But it was very difficult because so many things had changed for me.
The small group I was a part of and felt would be there for me just stopped meeting. I can’t remember how it stopped I just remember that it did and so I was no longer meeting with these people I’d forged such a deep connection with.
Each time I went to church on Sunday I was hoping for some connection with other adults. I was alone with a one year old all week, I was looking forward to some adult time. I know many people consider Sundays to be family days but in light of what happened, I guess I was hoping to be invited to lunch once in awhile. I never voiced this so I suppose it’s partially my fault. I guess I was just tired of always being the one to have to ask for help instead of it being offered. I can’t really explain how lonely I was all those weeks.
My sister was wonderful, she truly kept me sane during those times. She came over every night after work even if it was just for a few minutes. She even came over on her lunch break sometimes. We’d debrief each other on our days, talk, sometimes watch a movie or two and that’s what I needed. Some sort of companionship. I also got that when my friend Becca moved into the townhouse a couple doors down from me. It was helpful and made me feel like a person again. I don’t want to discount the effort Elise and Becca put towards me, because they saw me at some of my worst times. But it’s so frustrating to go to a place that talks about caring for people and reaching out, not only in prayer but in deed and then going home to have lunch alone with your infant son over and over again. It’s so hard to hear how much people “want to help” but then don’t. It’s difficult to be met with concern and pity when what you want from these people you had considered close friends, is love and quality time. Of course every time I saw them they would tell me how much they love me and Jack and how they were praying for me every day. Which brings me to my next point.
2. The power of prayer.
I’m tired of hearing about it. I do think that prayer can be powerful. But much of the time it’s not the ONLY thing you can do. I think a lot of people say they’ll pray for something so they don’t actually have to do anything. Do they pray for the thing? I’m sure most people try to remember to. Thing is I didn’t need just prayer. I needed so much more than that. I needed quality time, I needed people to get me out of my damn house and the people at church weren’t doing that. I did get invited to a couple things. It’s not as if I was totally ignored, but I got many more invitations to parties or girls nights or what have you from people who weren’t in my church than those who were. (And frankly I’m impressed by those friends who reached out to me after Jordan and I had been so super busy with church stuff. It’s like when you start dating someone new and forget you have friends. You’re lucky that your friends love you and welcome you back.)
The phrase “I’ll be praying for you” just irritates me now, because I’m sitting there thinking, “Hey thanks for the cop out.” When you say that to a person you’re pretty much saying “Gee I wish I had the discipline to do something real and tangible for you instead I’ll just go ahead and whisper some words to God.” It’s not just my situation that irritated me, it’s many other situations involving prayer instead of action. Summer is one of the worst times for hunger in the U.S.A. How many people are doing something about that? It would be so easy to go to the grocery store buy a bunch of canned goods and bring them to Northwest Harvest or one of the other many food banks in the Seattle area. Homelessness is a problem in Seattle, how many people are actually doing something to help those people? There are so many other issues. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with prayer. If you want to pray for something fine, do it. I think there is power in prayer, but don’t make that the ONLY thing you do, because it makes it feel cheap and lazy.
3. I’m so sick of the “buzzwords” in the church.
Have I written about this already? I think I may have, but I don’t want to go looking for the post. Maybe this is a “young Christian” thing. They throw around words and phrases and call it faith. What it comes off as to me is fake. It seems so gimmicky. Like the church is trying to be cool and it’s excruciating when something is trying to be cool. What’s worse is when church’s use gimmicks to try to be edgy and hip. That really gets me. It makes it seem as though they have very little interest in being a loving, safe, place where people, any person, can come be themselves and worship a God they believe in. I suppose the church’s that use gimmicks probably do not have an interest in creating a space like that.
However, even a church that is interested in creating a safe, loving space for people to gather and talk about God can still get caught up in buzzwords and gimmicks and I’m just done with that. Just be real with me.
4. What are we teaching the children?
I didn’t have much interest in this until I had a child. And until that child got a little older I didn’t really pay much attention to what the church is teaching my child. I’ve started to notice.
Jack watches Veggie Tales every now and then. I don’t restrict him too much with TV unless it’s going to be too over his head or I don’t like the show. And honestly Veggie Tales is getting to the point to where it’s a show I just don’t like much. I’ve sat and watched several episodes with Jack and what I’ve gleaned from them is we do things because God loves us so we have to love others. Ok…I get that…it’s in the Bible. But shouldn’t we also love people because they’re people and we have empathy?
I understand that teaching the concept of empathy to a child is difficult…or wait no it isn’t…the golden rule folks. Treat others the way you want to be treated. This is what I learned in Sunday School and it was so easy for me to understand. I think if I had been told to love people because God loves me I would have been totally confused. Because I was a child. But when I was given an example it made total sense. Do you like to be hit? No? Then don’t hit someone else.
That’s what I find lacking in those Veggie Tales episodes. I can’t say how Sunday Schools are doing it now because Jack only really goes to one when we visit Grandma and Grandpa’s house but I can guess that many teachings of the Veggie Tale variety are being taught.
The main thing is, I don’t want my kid to do something good because he’s trying to make me happy or God happy. I want him to understand that when he’s kind to his friends it makes them feel good so why wouldn’t that make him feel good too? I don’t want his respect and love for people to rely on a God that is constantly used for so many horrible things. It gets too confusing when you say God loves everyone, oh except those folks over there because they fall in love with people of the same sex, and those guys over there because they worship God in a different way than us, and also here is a list of things women can’t do or are worse at then men. How is that not confusing? It’s confusing to me and I’m a freaking adult!
So I’m going to go ahead and teach my son that we love and respect people, regardless of skin color, religion, gender or sexual orientation because they are people and we are not inherently bad. We have the capacity for so much good.
So those are my reasons. I have been feeling like I want to find a church again, but these are the things that hold me back. No church is perfect because people are part of the church and people aren’t perfect. Maybe I will find a church, maybe I won’t. But if I don’t, I don’t believe that I’ll be punished for that. I don’t think God is mourning over the way I’m raising Jack simply because we don’t attend a church I feel lukewarm about every Sunday.
If I go back to church I want to be real, I want to be myself. I don’t want to start changing so I can fit into some ideal “church goer” mold. Because I think that was the problem with the church Jordan and I were going to when he died. We’d wedged ourselves into this mold and then when he died I didn’t fit in it anymore and the church didn’t know what to do with me. So I’m through pretending, I’m going to be real. We’ll see if I can find a church that can handle that.