So, what are these truths about me and church?
I seem unable to settle into a church of my choosing. If I tell myself it doesn’t matter where I go, church is church, where two or three are gathered etc,…. Trouble is, for the last five years or so, church has rarely been the place when I’ve found God or more crucially where God’s been able to get a word in edgeways. There have been tantalising glimpses, there have been moments when I thought this barren stretch of boringness and monotony was over, but no. I’ve stuck with going week by week, especially when I made a promise to go to communion every week, even if I didn’t want to or feel like it, even when the temptation was to give up. I’ve maintained some kind of Bible reading and prayer routine, which has been patchy and variable at times, but which has been there. Just. Luckily, a couple of decades or more of praying the Daily Office meant a routine was pretty strongly engrained, and even if it was just a couple of Psalms or one of the set readings for the day, and some mumblings, an effort has been made
What has not gone away over these years is the strong, strong sense of God having a purpose for me. I still don’t know exactly what that purpose is, and I only know I’m fulfilling it when a sense of all being right with my world clicks in. I do know that purpose changes… Some of it hasn’t – I still seem to thrive best in working environments which horrify others. So, my unruly, scruffy, unemployable, but mostly loveable teenagers are kind of stuck with me. I I kept trying to change jobs, it hasn’t happened! But the job keeps growing with me. (I know, this is education, this is a horrific economic climate – I am possibly the only person who seems to have a safe job!) It would seem God wants me there!
I tried to counteract my working life with a very different kind of church. They all happened to be nice, middle of the road, middle-class churches. All excellent churches if they are what you are looking for, or where God wants you to be. Once, I’d’ve really enjoyed them, and happily found a place as part of the church community there. I’ve really stunned myself by being totally unable to settle. Week after week, I”ve been forcing myself to go, forcing myself into exchanging the Peace, force myself into going up to communion. I gave up on coffee after standing around too many weeks being ignored, or feeling I was being rude by trying to strike up a conversation with someone. There was a growing feeling I didn’t fit in, was never going to and wasn’t wanted being a single middle-aged person, on a low and erratic income, with little spare time.
A large part of me is desperately stubborn and independent. An equally large part is of the understanding that I can do anything I want if I try hard enough… There are strengths to this, but also weaknesses. One of which is I am determined to see a thing through, when the time has long gone to give up! I’m also very good at talking myself into “enjoying” something I am really hating.
Several pennies have recently dropped with resounding clatters.
- If the church I am going to is not one I would feel comfortable taking any of the teenagers or my colleagues to, then it’s not a church for me.
- The Peace only makes sense to me in a church or gathering where I am a part of the church community. It so does not make any sense in a church where people are very insistent on exchanging the Peace with me, to the point of prodding me to make me aware of their presence, (but that’s for a different post) but won’t talk to me afterwards.
- Communion also only makes sense to me when I am part of the whole.
- If a church asks newcomers for their contact details, then only uses them to make them feel even more guilty about having a low income, and unable to contribute much financially, well, that’s really not the church for me either.
- The onus is not all on the new person in church to do all the work at becoming part of the church community.
- If I don’t feel I can be honest about myself from the beginning, which I haven’t been, then it’s not the church for me.It’s a difficult one this. There were good and sensible reasons for being somewhat reticent and the reactions I got when I did explain them were exactly the ones I was wanting to avoid.
Like I said, I’m a very slow learner. I’m very hopeful the next phase of this whole church stuff will be very different.. It already has a very, very different feel about it all. There is a strong sense of God in it all, and a strong sense that I can be myself, and if need be, bring my scruffy, unruly kids along with me and they will be welcome.
Somewhere along the line, I’ve learnt a little more about trusting God, and a little more about forgiving myself for not being able to do what I thought I could. But, somehow, God knows better. I do need to remember that!