Monday, June 10, 2013

Why Church?


I have friends and family that are puzzled, or perhaps even put off, by my choice to do church. Of course, the real story is that I never expected to be here. I didn't want it. I didn't think that I needed it. I didn't believe in it. And I blame it on my husband to this day. At the time I didn't see it so much my choice as an ultimatum.

Our marriage was in trouble. And individually we were in trouble. He was angry. I was lost in depression and self destruction. Together we were just wounding one another. What had been working wasn't. We couldn't ignore and pretend. The pain became great enough that the husband came to a place where he could go no farther and said, "We either go to church or we get a divorce." 

Really??? He thought those hypocritical and judgemental church people could help?! It was obvious to me that he hadn't met many church people. I mean, we flirted with religion occasionally during our marriage, but it was never terribly helpful or intrusive...merely hoops to jump through to be accepted by a quiet and distant god, just in case.

I have talked about this transition before, but I don't want there to be any confusion. I did not feel comfortable or want to be there. Words of cheesy songs projected on a concrete wall felt stupid. It was scary being with a bunch of weird strangers who all seemed to share a secret that I didn't.  They talked about, and believed, stories that I barely remembered from my childhood in a book that I hadn't read in decades and wasn't sure of its relevance.  But I did like the coffee hour. Coffee lubricates those awkward interactions between people who don't know each other well.

No one goes to church for coffee, tho. It is just an added benefit. But someone, probably the pastor, suggested trying it out for a couple of months, and I did.

So why did I keep going? 

The husband figured out that church people aren't anymore together than the rest of the world. But they know Jesus. Yes, I know that you know God, too. And so did we. Sort of. What we found at church about this surprised me. 

God, that nebulous character played by my higher power, wasn't too demanding. He was a whisper, a shadow, that thing one sees out of the corner of their eye.  At church I heard something startling: 

Jesus said: "I and the Father are one.” Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him... (John 10:30-31 NIV). They wanted to kill him for saying that HE was God.

And this:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 NIV)

So at some point, Jesus stood in front of me, solid as a door, unmovable as a rock, and asked me what I was going to do about him.

He sort of sets this story on another path. 

It is easier to believe in an ambiguous higher power. But meeting that higher power and learning his name and learning about his character and how truly loving and caring he is, and knowing how dreadful you have been... There was a decision to make. 

And all of these things were happening within us, individually, but also as a couple. Were we going to continue acting like fools, striking out at the person who we walk beside, or might we consider trying a new way? Another decision to be made.

And we did. I did. I knew that Jesus was the clearer picture of that higher power that had been calling to me, watching over me, & loving me before I knew his name. And that husband. I don't know exactly what happened to him, but I know that he has looked sweeter to me and on me. I know that I have a partner that I did not and I am a partner that I was not.

Ultimately, here it is: when I was lost, I found His way. When I was desperate, I found His hope. When I was confused, I found His truth. When I was broken, I found His healing. And I had been lookin for all those things for a long time, in many places. I just happened to find what I needed in the very last place that I would ever want to look.

Church, the gathering of the people who follow Jesus-not the building, is an infusion of grace and hope when I begin to forget, just a little, where I came from & where Jesus is leading me, or even *that* Jesus is leading me when I begin to run ahead a little too far. It can still feel awkward and cheesy and stupid. But, when in doubt, grab a cup of coffee to sit with. Let its warmth relax those places. Perhaps what (or Who) you are longing for will find you in that least likely of places, too.

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