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Skipping Church

July 2, 2015

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I’ll just say it straight out.

I’m having a hard time going to church right now.  Seriously hard, like I’ve never really had hard time before.  All those years in college, I went to church without much problem.  True, I’d go spurts without going to church, but it wasn’t accompanied by feelings.  Those two years I dated the long-haired, hippie, agnostic social worker I went to church, in fact it was during that time I found the church that would lead me to my husband.

Now.

Now.

Not so much church.  I feel guilty.  Mounds and mounds of guilt.  What sort of example am I setting for my kids, especially since one in particular vehemently protests church on the Sundays we go?

I just can’t though.  I blame it on going back to work.  I started needing Sundays for Sabbath–a brief morning of not getting people dressed and out the door for something.  I needed a day that wasn’t full of “should’s” or “need to’s.”  It started with a missing a Sunday or so a month here and there.  May came and since then, we’ve been twice.  I now make it to church a Sunday or so a month.  A few of the Sundays I spent doing school work.  Two of those Sundays we were out of town.  Another Sunday I went on a glorious bike ride in the cool morning along a creek valley.  Last Sunday we went to a state park and played in waterfalls, a lovely pool of water mostly to ourselves.  They have been wonderful Sundays:  Sundays full of family, being outside, and slowing down.

I haven’t missed church at all. And I feel terribly guilty about this.  There is more guilt surrounding the not the missing church than the fact we haven’t been going to church.

Church had a become a struggle.  By the time Sunday school came around (after worship) I found myself combative and argumentative.  I was tired and worn down from the week and getting everyone in the car for church.

I’ve read the articles how church isn’t about me.  It’s about serving others and worshiping God.  The point is not “what I get out of church,” rather it is what I can contribute.  I’ve been doing “it’s not about me” for years now.  I can’t do it any more.  For years, I looked for things to hold on to and contribute to, but one by one, I’ve felt those things drifting away, whether it was programming changes or simply being tired of making the 45 minute rush hour drive to evening activities.

It’s trickier though, this taking a break from church thing, these days than it was eleven or thirteen years ago.  With children, I worry about how I am scarring my kids and hurting their future relationship with God.  With Curtis, I worry about working through this process together.  This pulling away isn’t just about me, it’s about all five of us.  How do you visit new churches with kids in tow?  How do you find a place where everyone will fit in when all five of you have different needs?  How do you figure out the difference between a church’s website and “programs” and the actual church?

DSC_4189The truth of that matter is this, despite it being a rough five years (not without gloriously bright spots), we aren’t ready to completely leave our church.  Those ties are so strong–meeting Curtis, marrying, baptizing our children, and discovering some of our best friends all within the walls of that church.  History  and sentimentality creates a tight knot to wiggle our way out of.

In the midst of this spring and my pulling away, I started reading Rachel Held Evans’s new book, searching for sunday:  loving, leaving, and finding the church.  While this book didn’t cause my separation, it has reassured me in the separation.  Sunday resounds with me, because like Evans, I love church, I still identify as Christian, I still love learning more about God, Jesus, and exploring my faith.  While her story differs from mine, unlike Evans, it is not a difference of theological beliefs that pulls me away, it was a relief to read her words about needing to leave a good, nurturing church who brought you casseroles when someone had a baby or was sick.  Sometimes, it’s ok to take a break.  Sometimes it’s ok to stop trying.

I need permission to stop trying now.  I need forgiveness for the judgmental thoughts I had when others stopped going to church.  I need to grace to surround me as I struggle to believe I am still beloved of God even if I am not doing what the Christian establishment (versus God) tells me I need to do.

We’ll continue to take our break this summer.  We’ll continue to breathe deeply fresh air on Sunday mornings, sing God’s praises as I bike along creek valleys or watch my children frolic in water falls.  We’ll continue to meet with our small groups to figure out how God is urging us to grow and raise our children in ways that are more congruent with the life of Jesus.  We just may not show up on Sunday morning much.

When it’s time, we’ll be back at our church or we will figure out a church that is a better home for us.  It’s not time for that yet.  For now, it’s time for Sabbath rest, for being with family, for not fighting battles, and for being refreshed from a year full of changes.

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