a churchless sunday + related thoughts

Today, the feeling to write is there. And I've never been one to ignore feelings, so here we are.

I can't say I know where I'm going yet, but that's part of the fun, right?

It's a Sunday morning and I'm on my second mug of coffee. It's unseasonably warm and on a scale of 1 to 10, life isn't as confusing as it was a few or four or five months ago. (We're at a comfortable 5 now).

Normally, I'd be at church. But since December, that hasn't been the case. This is pretty uncharacteristic of me, and while it's not somewhere I want to stay, it's nonetheless where I'm at.

Graduating from a small, private university and getting back into the "real world" was much needed. Meeting people who were different than me (and usually not Christians) was very refreshing. Somewhere in that mix, though, a hardness started to form in my heart.

I was becoming more critical, and I craved knowledge so that I could hold my own during intellectual conversations. (Context: I am probably one of the least critical people I know, which is good and bad, and I'm not dumb, but I'm nowhere near a genius). So both of these mindsets were new for me, and at the time, they were attractive. They were tangible.

It felt good to wake up, read The New York Times, know what was going on in the world, and be aware. It felt good to drink coffee while listening to NPR. It felt good to have conversations about world issues (the ones I cared about) and church issues. It felt good to have something to say, something to read, and something to listen to. It felt good to not accept everything as it was; to push back and question. It made me feel important, and educated.

This is something I've always craved, too. Knowledge, that is. To me, there's no worse feeling than being unaware in a conversation. Not being able to express what you know or believe accurately, not being able to share opinions because you don't have any. And you don't have opinions because you are not critical. Therefore you just stay ignorant. It's a vicious cycle.

So I was sick of that. I was sick of blindly walking through life not knowing how I actually felt. Or rather, knowing how I felt but not expressing it because of fear. This is where we loop back around to the whole church part.

It is scary for someone who is 99% accepting to suddenly feel 99% unaccepting. (Um, spell check is telling me that's not a word. Why is "unacceptable" a word and not "unaccepting"? Conspiracy)! But, there is also a liberation that comes with change. Instead of just agreeing with stuff because I hate confrontation and I hate skepticism and I hate disunity in general, I started saying, Well wait. I don't really like that, and I don't really agree with this. And I let myself feel those feelings and explore what they meant.

I let myself ask the really hard questions that I finally wanted to ask, even if they weren't pretty, and even if they left me very, very confused.

This led to no more church for me. And yes, that has been weird and again, scary. You feel like you are doing something wrong, you feel like you are cutting yourself off from God, you feel like you are hardening yourself towards everything you've ever believed. It's a dangerous line to walk. It's a vulnerable place to stay. (And it tells you how inaccurate your view of God is).

The cool part about it, though, is the refinement. Wrestling through stuff is so much better than leaving it alone and continuing to ignore its presence. I think I've learned more about God in the last few months than I have in awhile. Which doesn't say too much, because I still feel pretty "lost," but the point is that it's the most honest I've been with Him, and the most honest I've been with myself.

I'm learning that God isn't mad at me for not going to church. He isn't mad at me for having hard questions and doubting Him. Better yet, He is totally allowing me to question, and every day I find Him in a way, in a person, I wouldn't have expected. The silent prayers that I haven't even prayed, only mentally complained about, He has answered.

And more than anything, I'm figuring out what faith actually means. All the questions I have will never be answered here. Literally never answered. I can choose to be mad about that and say Screw you, God, this sucks and doesn't make any sense, or I can say, Okay Jesus. This is really hard for me to accept and I don't get it. But it's always going to be out of my control, so please help my unbelief. Please give me the faith I don't have. 

I realized this last week that I would rather have faith in Jesus, in God, in the Holy Spirit, and not have all the answers, than think I have all the answers and be completely void of faith. Faith allows for hope, and I want to live in hope. Living without hope is, for me, one of the most heartbreaking ways to live.

So no, I haven't found a church yet. Yes, I've had glimpses at a couple great ones where I was reminded why church is so beneficial, special, and necessary. And I know I'll be back soon. But until then, I'm remembering that Jesus loves me despite my actions. Reading my Bible every morning and going to church every Sunday will not make Jesus love me more. And not reading my Bible every morning and not going to church every Sunday will not make Jesus love me any less. Life might be a little harder without the latter, but Jesus loves me as I am. I must learn to separate my actions and His love for me. He loves me right now, today, in this moment. He is teaching me still.

And that's exactly where I need to be.