When church hurts
My sister is nearing the home stretch in her third pregnancy, I guess I could certainly count on her to give me a good description of uncomfortable. But I’ve been mulling over a different sort of uncomfortable.
It has been close to four years (gasp, really? is that possible?) since our decade long stint serving and working full time in the church setting came to a close. Our family and friends, our whole life truly was wrapped up in a place that we loved. We were known. We belonged and it felt good.
Dealing with the grief and loss in and after that season was very onion-like, we would deal with one thing only to realize there was still more. Some of it I hated because my heart hurt so bad I couldn’t see straight and some was so sacred, so holy that I relished it for what it was. After a hiatus from church altogether, we visited a dozen church one summer anticipating ‘fun’ and ‘variety’. Hmmmm, there would be many words to describe it but fun it was not. We were strangers, visitors, unknown nobodies. Sometimes we were welcomed and directed and sometimes we were chastised for sitting in the wrong spot.
When we left our long time church home, our place of comfort and community, one of the whispers that God kept speaking to my heart was this:
You will never again be as comfortable as you were here.
I was tempted to be bitter and angry. But I had done bitter and angry plenty already and the fruit was sour. I refused to sign up for more on purpose. I let the words sit in my heart and simply waited. As the months passed and the fog of sadness lifted a bit I began to see the down side of being comfortable…
- it was special and felt good to walk into a place and know that everyone knew who I was but somehow I forgot that not everyone felt that way
- it was hard to find the courage to try new things or dream different dreams because the draw of stability when you have kids in your life is a very strong draw
- staying put is (often) easier than stepping out
- living in a nest-like cocoon of community can be a bubble that leaves you out of touch with the world around you
I began to understand that my comfort had often brought along with it complacency. In order for me to realize that a change was imperative, my world needed to fall apart.
And it did. What first felt like I-can’t-breathe gave way to maybe-I-can-get-dressed-today which later led to we-all-might-survive-this-just-possibly. But the sense that we were headed for a different walk, a different sort of path was something I could not shake as we moved forward.
In the past two years we’ve been part of a new place of fellowship. It has felt like home. It’s been precious and encouraging and has built us up. We know we are supposed to be there. But like any place where a bunch of imperfect people get together, there is hard stuff. There are challenges that are uncomfortable.
This time however, I am determined to do better at living in that middle place where I can “take my shoes off” but I’m not so at ease that I don’t see the needs all around me. I have been gifted with children who don’t all perfectly fit in with their peers and this is indeed a monumental gift. It forces me to be sensitive and aware in ways I would not normally be. I am learning to welcome the feeling that things aren’t quite right because that means there is room for improvement and that means that I get to watch things happen that are beyond my ability. I love that.