I grew up in a very conservative evangelical church. I was at church Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evenings. It wasn’t all bad. I got to spend a lot of time with my cousins who I grew up being very close. I loved singing the church hymns, especially Sunday nights when they actually took requests…I think I requested Do Lord, every week. But there were a lot of things that I didn’t agree with either. If God was such a gracious God then why were there such damned consequences for mistakes?
As I grew older I went to several churches based on where we lived. I was even in the Worship Team Singing Group at one church. I married a Lutheran and eventually our kids went to a moderately liberal Lutheran school. By liberal I mean you weren’t going to hell because you drank alcohol, because that’s what I grew up thinking. There were even lesbian couples in the congregation…that would have made my quaker family hit their knees in prayer to pray them straight.
But regardless of religion, if you are married in a Christian ceremony there are certain vows you take before God and your family. When your marriage dissolves that bond which you swore no one could put asunder is well …asunder! So that leaves you with a broken relationship not only with your spouse but with God. And ultimately your church family.
My home church family that I grew up in has all but disowned me. When your mother tells you, you can’t go back to the church…you probably can’t go back to the church. We continued to take the children to the Lutheran church that was affiliated with their school during their younger years, if for no other reason than continuity. As other ties in their life were being broken, I felt it was important for them to have one that was consistent and that is their link to Christ. Sometimes we would all go at the same service, others depended on who happened to have the kids on Sunday mornings.
But as time has gone on and I have moved on to another relationship there is a need for me to find another church home. WOW – this shouldn’t be hard. Why is it so intimidating?!?! I have zero reservations about walking into a new restaurant, ordering food that could be bad. Service may be horrible. And I still have to pay my bill before I leave. The worst that can happen to you in my experience going to several churches in several denominations is you lose an hour or so of your life. A few awkward introductions as strangers welcome you. There isn’t typically a cost of admission. Or is there? Is the cost of admission for walking into a church an exposure of all your insecurities, faults.
There is always a level of apprehension going into a new church. But when you go to a new church with your 4 kids and your boyfriend?! I might as well be walking in naked and afraid! It’s funny how Christianity has morphed into this unaccepting place where only believers belong, when Jesus believed quite the opposite. Garnering the courage to even walk into a foreign church is hard enough, when you put on the circumstances, it is excruciating. Not to mention you never know what to wear to church these days. Every church and even the different services at the church have different dress norms.
And then there is the kid factor. Do I stick them back with some volunteer whom I do not know that could be exposing them to a belief system of which I have no knowledge? Or do I take them into the service and bribe them to behave with promises of IHOP after the service? Luckily my kids are old enough and have been in church and know what acceptable behavior is so I normally just have them sit with me.
I will be honest I have struggled with my relationship with God since ending my relationship with my ex-husband. Whether it be my upbringing, the situation surrounding my divorce, I have not felt like I can have any sort of relationship with God. Funny how no one from either church that I had been to for years reached out and said, listen we know you’re going through a rough time. How can we help? How can we guide? Know no matter what God loves you and you are always welcome. You are clay he is still molding.
Instead, every Christian I know were the ones who reached out the least, loved the least, accepted the least. They casted the most stones, wielded the worst rumors and sought pleasure in my grief. So when I say I have struggled with my relationship with God, much of that has to do with my struggle with Christianity in general. Or at least what seems to be the current interpretation of Christianity.
I believe my children need to be in church. I believe I need to be a part of a church family. But how do you go about finding one that will actually accept you and the baggage that you plop next to you in the pew? I’m continuing to try to find a place of acceptance and peace. One that believes that all have fallen short of the glory of God. One that doesn’t make you feel second class because you are on your second chance.