About a week ago, I had reached my limit. It was infuriating having to get up on Sunday mornings having to go to church, only to see the same customers who abuse me and my coworkers at the store. It was distracting. I spent a great deal of time sitting behind them, afraid they might see me and come after me, like I was the one who didn’t allow the coupon to work. As if I made the rules. I was afraid to be subject to their anger. Their malice and hatred. I spent a great deal of time, being embarrassed for them. Embarrassed that if I were to even convince a coworker to come to church, that I would be afraid in the same manner for them as I would myself. Sadly, I find myself hopeful that no one would ever want to come to church with me. Even more sad, I never even want to invite people to my church.
I have spent visiting this church on and off for about 3 years now. More consistently in the past year since graduating from college. It was a struggle, and continues to be a struggle to fit in there, mainly because my work schedule is inconsistent, but also because I have only two people who actually attempt to connect with me and who I feel comfortable connecting with in return. No one else has introduced themselves to me. No one. Others have introduced others to me, but I have not even encountered those people again. They do not wave. They do not smile back. They never say hello.
It has been heartbreakingly discouraging.
So I decided that perhaps this church was not my place. Perhaps I needed to go elsewhere? But with the price of gas and the distance between communities, I have been unable, and even unwilling, to search out new church communities. Where can I go in my community where people do not know me? Where can I be fresh and try again as a new person? As the person I am, not the “fragrance counter girl at X.” So I decided, since money was low and so was morale, I was no longer going to attend church. I needed a break from the fake. I needed to separate myself from the hostile. I needed God to come to me because I was not willing to go to Him.
Thankfully He did.
For a strange and rare moment I had felt as thought I needed to listen to a sermon online. I needed spiritual refreshment, which is very unlike me to admit or even acknowledge, much less to actually act on. I searched an old church I had attended back in high school. One I had felt comfortable with, and one I had been sad to leave when we moved several states away. I randomly selected a series from their web page and began to listen. It was the Series on 1 Corinthians and it was chapter one. Little did I know that the message would predominately be about every issue I had ever had with the church.
I was reminded of my own mess, and in turn reminded of the mess of others in the church. I was not the only human being who sought refuge from the hostile, and I myself was often one of those hostiles. I was reminded that one of the important parts of a faithful walk with God, is to walk with other people, and love them in their mess. This was both encouraging, and terrifying for me to hear. It meant having to find a place in a community, and to let go of my Western culture ideals of individualism. It wasn’t about me and God. It was about Us and God. About Church….with an uppercase C and a lower case me. We are called to live in community with one another, and deal with our mess and issues in love. To call each other out, not because we are angry, but because we are concerned about the spiritual health of another person. Because we love them.
This means living in a community of scum. Of the worst of the worst. Of which I am a part. So I suppose what I’m saying right now…is pray for me. Because this is really gunna suck to figure out and will include a lot of growing pains.