On the last Sunday of 2015, I decided to stop attending my church of 20+ years and start checking out other churches.
In August of 2016, I decided to stop attending church, period. I felt I should take ownership of my faith and make a conscious decision regarding what I did with my spiritual life and Sunday mornings/afternoons.
Over the past several months, I ran into people I had met through church, had done ministry with, etc. They would all ask me if I was still attending my old church. I would say No. Then they would ask me which church I was attending now. I would say None.
The all-around answer was encapsulated in the raising of eyebrows. A silent, widening of eyes signifying care and worry.
The conversation would continue: Why am I not attending? What happened? Are you okay?
I would then respond with the fact that I just didn’t feel like I was consciously choosing to attend and plug myself into a community. I had grown up all my life in the church. It was all I knew. 26 years of my life, I had spent every Sunday at church (except 1 year of rebellion in college). I didn’t know what it meant to want to go to church at the time I made that decision and still today. I was taught to want it, I was taught I needed community, I was taught a lot of things. But I didn’t feel it, I didn’t know it.
Further, I couldn’t justify the unhappiness and dissatisfaction I felt being and trying to be part of a community I truly did not have a desire to be in. This means no offense to anyone. Different folks, different strokes. I wanted something else. I wanted to expand myself and grow as a person massively. I didn’t really see that in the community I was in or in the other churches. And let’s be honest, I wanted to know interesting people. Everyone is interesting, but people are interested in different ways. And that’s okay, right?
And even further, I didn’t agree with some things about the church, how things are, and especially how things are just accepted as okay. Do you know what that does to me as an opinionated human being? It causes me to judge. Every Sunday, every service, every get together… just judgement. And ultimately unhappiness and pain.
Why would I want to do that to myself? A very good question, my friend. I had been struggling with that for a couple years before deciding to stop attending my old church and then church altogether.
Anyway, the point of this post was not to provide reasons for not attending. I started this post because after several months of making my decision and running into people I knew through church, I noticed that of all the people that I talk to about my life decisions and desires, it’s always the same people that tell me what’s best in my life. It’s the same people that tell me I need something, that I lack a crucial part of life. It’s the same people that tell me I’m falling off the path, that I’m ultimately not doing God’s will.
To be honest, it’s a little disheartening. I mean, who likes being told what to do, what’s best for them? I understand I’m this young millennial who looks like she lost her way. I know I look a fool sometimes. But I believe I’m walking with God. I believe he is here. I believe he has never left. Then what’s the issue? If a person wants to figure stuff out, why not? Do those who tell me I’m on the other side of what’s good not believe God is about the process? Not physical attendance or rituals? That God is the process?
But more than that, I feel relief. Because I was once one of those people that spoke to me about God’s will and needing community. I had once been judgmental about things I really had nothing to say about, and really, thing I knew nothing about. I felt relief that I can recognize what it looks like to be in that place and I’m okay being outside of it. I felt relief, honestly, that I had made the decision, though I didn’t know it then, to walk away from what didn’t make sense to me anymore. I felt relief, not that I was right or wrong, but that I feel right in my soul.
And every time I explain my decision to someone, I feel even more right, and even more, well within.
I have no qualms about returning to church. If that’s something my soul craves and desires, I would not hold out. I have no issues with pride, no problems with ego, at least in this aspect. I believe in the process and if it leads me back somewhere I had left, so be it.
I just disagree wholeheartedly with the manner in which people who don’t know me, who truly don’t know me by walking with me, being part of the struggle and search for Truth, can tell me what I’m lacking. And I don’t understand how and why faith, community, and God are a one-size-fits-all type of deal. I don’t think it really is. But that’s for another post, another day.