Sunday mornings are the most peaceful hours of my week, and yet, my most conflicted. A few months ago, I gave up trying to figure out our very complicated church situation, and for now, I am sitting out Sunday morning church. I look forward to my Sunday mornings all week long, when I sit for hours and hours in a coffee shop with my computer, a large cup of coffee, and I write. This ritual fills my introvert cup like nothing else, and at times, can very much be a spiritual experience.
We never lived “close” to our previous church, but when we moved a year and a half ago, our new home put us 25 miles from the church, by way of a toll road. Putting aside any spiritual or theological concerns, logistically this wasn’t going to work for our family long-term. And although the church is filled with wonderfully supportive and kind people who have loved our family for years, we were never able to get deeply involved due to the distance, our schedules, and our unique situation with Grayson. I don’t want anyone to think I’m blaming anyone or myself for this, it just objectively is what the situation is. And I do still attend weekly Bible study at the church; in fact, Tuesdays are my favorite day of the week. Charlotte and Nolan love the kids program (they talk about their friends and teachers there all week), and I love the little community of women in my group.
I’ve always felt like an outsider at church. Even as a child, I remember getting really good at pretending to feel the things I was supposed to feel, and going through all the right motions. I’ve done many, many Bible studies and attended countless Christian activities. Church has been a weekly ritual for my entire life. But I’ve never felt truly connected or at home at any church. I can still picture cliques at church from 25 years ago, inner circles I never figured out how to become a part of. And now, I see friends who have tight-knit small groups who are “doing life together” and once again, I’m on the outside. And most of that is probably me, my personality, aspects of life beyond my control, and the effort I put in to the community aspect of church. But at the present, putting forth that effort is beyond my emotional bandwidth.
When I think about trying to find a new church, it seems impossible. Honestly, there aren’t a lot of people who feel safe to me, especially other Christians. And the idea of building community feels exhausting right now. And maybe that’s it…I’m exhausted. Exhausted with feeling hurt, angry and and confused with Christians. I’m exhausted with feeling alone in a crowd, so I’d much rather just actually be alone. And attending church as an introvert, even when one is in a good spiritual place, can still be exhausting. There’s so much small talk, so much trying to say the right things, use the right words, wear the right clothes. And adding a special needs child, a preschool and a toddler to the mix leaves me unmotivated and anxious about church most of the time.
For a year now, I’ve been deconstructing, questioning everything I thought I believed and the institutions I trusted. I was listening to an episode of The Liturgists this morning on spiritual trauma, and one of the things they talked about was that “deconstruction” is seen as a progressive buzzword: a trendy and popular thing for those who call themselves Progressive Christians to do. And it’s seen as a Snowflake bandwagon to jump on. But real deconstruction is incredibly painful and isolating (and so, so slow), and no one would choose to do it if it didn’t feel absolutely necessary. The easy thing would be to not question, push aside doubt, and conform. It would be much easier to slip right back in to the Christian machine and carry on in the same manner as I have the last three decades.
I don’t know what my church future looks like. My husband and I now have very different theological stances on some key issues. And that’s ok, but it will make finding a church we can attend together really difficult. Right now, he is taking the kids to the church he grew up in, and the kids are happy there. But if I am going to dive in and do the heavy emotional work of finding a new faith community, I want it to be in my actual geographical community. I’ve spent my adult life driving all over the city of Houston, putting thousands of miles on cars and probably taking years off my life in traffic. So now, I want to live where I live. But our community is conservative, and I don’t know if I’m in a place to open up and be vulnerable with people who ultimately don’t believe the same as I do on major theological issues. I don’t want to be talked about behind my back or seen as a prodigal child by a whole new group of people- I already have enough of that from people who I love and trusted.
So for now, my Sunday mornings are for me. They are the only hours I truly have to myself, and right now, they feel precious. I can relax. I can breathe. It is truly a day of sabbath for me. I’m trying so hard to be gentle and kind to myself as I navigate this interminably painful season.