On Friday I stepped foot in church after more than a year.
It went okay so I went back on Sunday making for a grand total of the most I’ve attended church in over three years.
You might be thinking whoop-de-do so she went to church. NEXT! But it’s actually a big deal for me because I used to go to church every Sunday and loved it.
But then I dated a pastor for almost ten years. For more than half of those years he was in seminary, training for the ministry. Seminary is no joke. It is an intense experience that consumes you mentally and emotionally. Someone once told me to ‘hold on for the ride’ when they found out he was attending. They never warned me I should be prepared to get traded in for a younger model when it was all over.
You know, it’s one thing to be an unconventional person when you lead a private life, but it’s something totally different when you’re considering life under the magnifying glass. I drove myself nuts with so many questions: will people approve of me having a pretty high-powered job? What if they don’t? Will I have to quit? Then what will I do? I don’t even like children’s ministry. What if the way I dress isn’t conservative enough? What if I can’t rock a doily? What if I don’t even want to try? I mean, I labored over it. But then when the option was removed from the table, I wondered if my questions had made God angry with me.
It took a couple years to realize the whole church thing wasn’t working for me anymore. The physical act of going and sitting there left me jittery, exhausted and empty. I tried going to other churches, even just Bible studies, but left feeling the same. So after a lot of contemplating, I stopped attending. I felt like a failure, like I had let God down. I went through a whole cycle of emotions: guilt, fear, anger, sadness; finally just not caring about any of it anymore. Completely burned out, I spent months going over detail after detail in my mind, coming up with all kinds of reasons why God must have thought I wasn’t good enough.
I mean, I like an eff bomb. No really, I do.
Feeling like I was inches from death last week made me want to go to church. Friday was a communion service and I told Chris I actually felt like I desperately needed it, which was an interesting and palpable realization. So I rolled up in there and braced myself.
What I got out of the message was this: We should approach God without fear or reservation, no matter what is or has been going on in our lives. He wants us to get real close and let it all out. We have freedom of speech there. He wants us to draw near and not shrink back because He is filled with mercy and forgiveness, grace and love for us.
You know, I really needed to hear that again because I’ve been walking around for a long time feeling like a total disappointment. I hope someday I won’t even feel a residual tinge of this anymore, but for now I’m just happy to be feeling more like my old self. Correction: an improved version of my old self. I know I’ve been saying that a lot lately, but only because I’ve been noticing it so much. The past year has been a shedding of the superficial, of everything I was shielding myself with. It’s been a slow and steady return to my true self, my free self, and it feels great.
But for the record: I do still like an eff bomb.