i don’t know

I feel completely disconnected from the church.

Sometimes you just have to start by saying the hard thing.  That thing that sometimes feels like it’s stuck to the roof of your mouth, like you couldn’t wrench it out if your life depended on it.  That thing that at other times feels as though it’s going to waterfall out, spill at the least appropriate time, flood the grounds of sacred places with sacrilege.

It’s the kind of thing that catches you by surprise when it first rolls into the white space in your mind.  And something in your spirit settles, like that moment when you finally confess an ugly secret to a friend.  And then reality sets in, that the difficult truth is known, and all that’s left is the anxiety of, “Well, now what?”

Hard things are both impossible and freeing once said.

But the freedom is addictive, so you say it again and it slides out a little easier this time, a little less like the end of the world.

I feel completely disconnected from the church.

And I’ve been afraid of saying that for so long, because I don’t know how to explain it, to dig to the root of it, to put words to fleeting feelings in the pit of my stomach.  I consider myself an artist, words my medium, and so when I can’t tie things down with the bonds of the English language, I panic.  I love the end product, but the process scrapes at the walls of my soul.

Because I know how this blog ends, already.  I know it ends with three words that I’ve never been completely comfortable with.

I don’t know.

When we say the Lord’s prayer, the apostles’ creed, I feel connected.  At the table, with the bread and the wine, I feel connected.  The weight of thousands of years and all the believers who passed through those years. The belonging of knowing that Jesus is my provider and my provision, my sustainer and my sustenance.  Connected.

And then I sit back down and it hits, that feeling that this has been a hard year, the hardest in nearing a decade, and no one in this room knows it.  And I realize that there’s a really good chance that someone else in the room feels exactly the same way. Like it’s possible to show up every Sunday, feeling like you’re drowning, and for no one to know it.  And I feel the weight of bitterness over the fact that no one has really made an effort to get to know me, and I feel the weight of shame over the fact that I haven’t really made an effort to get to know them.

And there’s a breakthrough moment when it hits me that my heart aches for the broken.  It always has.  Probably because I’m one of them.  Broken and messy and completely flawed, with a Jacob spirit that’s always wrestling the angel.

And it swells up in my soul that sometimes, I don’t feel like the North American concept of church is a place for the broken.  Particularly in the just-the-right-side-of-wealthy suburbs, sometimes it feels like it’s a place for the people who have got themselves and their lives together, or at very least have figured out how to act like it.

I don’t and I haven’t.  There’s no having anything together to be boasted of with this one.  And the older I get, the less desire I have to figure out how to act like I do.  But therein lies the problem.  The more I unapologetically embrace my own messiness, the less I feel connected within the church.

And then there are the creeds, the liturgy, the bread and wine.  And I feel the spirit of Jacob wrestle within me, the heart of David who knew how to both rejoice and lament with truly startling honesty, Rahab who was all the wrong things at exactly the right time.  And I feel my soul connect to something, connect to God, connect to people who related to Him in the unpolished way I do.  And hope rises and I am sustained.  I breathe.

How do I create that here? How do I find the others who long for connection they’re not finding? How do I make space for that here, to know and be known and love and be loved, for real time with real people who have real lives and real joys and real heartaches? How do you facilitate that in an environment where the default answer to most any personal question is “busy?” How do I pause the record that replays in my head when I crave community and time, the one that says that their life is busy enough as it is…they don’t need or want me to add to it.

Ah, the three words that I’ve never been completely comfortable with.

I don’t know.

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5 thoughts on “i don’t know

  1. Hi.

    I totally know what you are talking about. I’ve been in and out of fundamentalist/conservative churches for my entire life. I’ve only recently started “exploring” less conservative communities. So far I like what I’ve found at a place (Denver Community Church), but I’m still not “connected.”

    I long for community.

    Somewhere between the bustle and the delight of our modern culture, I think we’ve lost something in the way we do church. Maybe we’ve lost someone {the holy Spirit}. Maybe we’ve stopped caring as much for {each other} than we do for {ourselves}. Whatever the reason – something’s definitely not the same as it was in the Bible. Well, most of it’s there… but some things aren’t.

    Like you, I find myself speaking those words that I don’t want to – mostly because I’m uncomfortable.

    I don’t know.

    • indirtysoil says:

      Absolutely. My husband and I attend a church near Dallas that is we like, and we deeply care for some of the people…but there’s just this thing that’s missing and I can’t ever put a finger on it, and it’s not just this church. Like you, the only way I’ve been able to describe it is as something missing from the way we do church. Sometimes I read New Testament and I just ache for this intangible thing that I feel within it. And as a writer, it feels impossible to not be able to articulate it, even though God seems to be present most in the things I can’t articulate.

      Good to know I’m not the only one searching and not quite finding, stuck in the I don’t know.

      Looking forward to checking out your blog! Blessings!

      • I’m reading a book called Forgotten God, by Francis Chan. The premise Chan makes is that the church isn’t missing, “something.” Rather, we are missing, “someone – the Holy Spirit.” I’m not sure that we’re missing the Holy Spirit completely, but things have definitely changed in the way we allow God’s presence to move among us.

        Thanks for saying you’re going to check out my blog. I’m kind of just getting started and am having difficulties getting readers since I’m on the wordpress.org stuff and not the .com. I didn’t realize self-hosting would be such a pain.

  2. Margie says:

    Wow!! How thought provoking and how true. I have always feared that our world is becoming a group that thinks “it is all about me.” Technically using a twist on those words “all about me” and what Jesus is, it really is all about me. It is about how I can make a change, what can I do, who is the first person I can talk to, I make the difference through my love of Jesus Christ. I have to make the effort because I believe Christ tells me to. I belong to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod known for being conservative. We are a large church 3 services on Sunday plus a Sunday School hour for everyone (adults and children) and 1service on Thursday for those who cannot attend on Sunday. A church that is easy to get lost in and for some that is what they want, for others it brings fear, for me, now it brings me opportunities to serve lots and lots of people. I love my church but I know where you are coming from. I once felt the same way and I hear others say the same thing. I felt I was a fish in a vast ocean trying to find the shore. I don’t know how active any of you are in your congregations. I also felt a lack of community until I became more involved within the church. I met people from other services and people who love Jesus as much as me. I joined different committees to see if I could find my nitch. I forced myself to say greet someone I did not know every Sunday to say hi my name is Margie Welcome to Trinity. I met people who knew my name but not me as a person. I found people who had gone there longer than me but just to a different service. I decided to send cards to those who were in prayer concerns. One such person, when they met me was surprised to see such a young person doing this, actually I knew her daughter. I felt I served the right purpose. I now participate in many activities. It was a very difficult and long transition but one I am so glad I listened to God when he gave those nudges to step out of my comfort zone. I pray you each find what is missing in you and/or your church. God is there as is the Holy Spirit waiting for you to find them.

    Father I ask you to help each of these people find you, find their place in your church and in their lives. May they find fellowship amongst their congregations. Let them feel your whisper to talk to others, act upon your gentle nudge. I thank you for all you have done for me within my church. Though we have our ups and downs let me always be faithful to you.
    In Jesus Name

  3. […] feels impossible to write down how I got here, how I got to all of these bitter and hard places with God and the church.  Because I know that if I were to say this to my sweet mama, her pure-intentioned heart would be […]

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