"Well maybe if I could just get involved in an okay church, I'd be less...this." That's my thought process and I can't even finish it because I don't know what this is. I had a professor tell me once that the transition between college and the rest of your life is harder than divorce. I didn't believe him when he told me that.
Now that I'm in that transition, I think part of it might be true. I'd imagine the transition you make after a divorce to be very lonely, and post-collegiate life is very lonely too, in very different ways. I moved to a new city and I have good support, but not very many friends. I miss my siblings dearly. I got a car and a new job and I like them both.
So things aren't terrible. They really aren't. I don't wake up not wanting to wake up anymore. And that's a good thing.
But I haven't found a church. I was attending a tiny, ancient, elderly-populated Presbyterian church in my college town, but I left the day that my choir director yelled at me, berating me for missing practice. Our choir had 3 members at the time - me, the reverend, and a wonderful elderly woman named Sharon who was in her 80's and filled with stories about her world travels. We were there to have fun, and we knew that we'd be off-key and out of harmony and we did not take it too seriously. But somehow, this choir director found it in himself to be outraged that I would go out of town for a single weekend during summer vacation, and yelled as if I were missing my soloist rehearsal for a performance at the Vatican. I thought, I will never take this in church ever again, because I don't deserve it, and I never went back. I was sad, though, because I felt like a safe haven for me had been ruined yet again by someone in spiritual leadership.
I had hopes that when I moved, I'd see the trend of church hurting me changing. I had a stubborn hope that I could find a good place again, that I could be brave enough and strong enough to search a community out. But I'm starting to think that hope was misplaced and that I am not yet strong enough to continue on this search.
After this, and after the church service where they announced "God is a gentleman; he doesn't force himself on us," from the microphone, and after the sermon where the pastor implied that it was all well and good to be on antidepressants as long as you didn't depend on them or put them before God and you only took them for six months or so; after all this, in my new town, at a variety of churches, I think I am done trying for now.
Maybe I'm done for a matter of months. Maybe I'm done for a year. Maybe I'm done for good.
After all the ruckus raised in the Christian blogosphere & beyond about why quote-unquote Millenials are leaving the church, I am here at the end of my rope with the body of Christ and my reasons for being here are full and varied and ever-changing, but the one constant is that I am tired of the constant assault on who I am and what I have been through. You might think attending a church service couldn't possibly do that to you, but to that I say: you are not me. You have not been through what I have been through. You do not know the burst of anxiety, the swing of depression, that can be induced from hearing a single sentence uttered from the pulpit.
The church isn't what broke me. An abusive home did that. But my parent's church, the one that my parents pastored in and were paid to do so, knew about my home life. And they did nothing to stop it; in fact, they taught attitudes and disciplines in Sunday school and home groups that did the exact opposite - they encouraged and enabled the kind of abuse I was raised under. That is an unescapable fact, and it's those same attitudes and disciplines that I see reflected in wider evangelical culture that I cannot stomach and I cannot sit under any longer.
I can no longer sit under a church that oppresses my friends under the guise of denying their whole selves. I can't be in a place that has secretive, rarely outwardly spoken but ever-present undercurrents that believe I should be married with children, under the authority and guidance of a husband.
I can't be in church when I fear that me speaking about my concerns with it will lead to missives like this.
I'm tired of the tensing in my gut and the uncomfortable feeling where I wonder if my favorite dress is just a little too short for this congregation. I'm tired of being constantly on alert for the next thing to be said or the next thing to go wrong.
I'm tired of feeling like it's my fault. Like if I could just be less attentive, if I could be less choosey, if I could be less wounded, I'd be happy in any random church I visited on a Sunday morning.
Like it's my fault I was abused.
So for right now, maybe, maybe I'm done. Maybe I will choose to rely on the arms of my friends, my adopted family, the support I have found among Christians and non-Christians alike in the online community.
And maybe that's a bad thing, like I'm not a good enough Christian or a good enough person or a good enough woman to just suck it up and deal with it and move on impervious to insult and grievances.
But I don't think God finds me wanting because I can't walk into a building dedicated to his worship. I think I have faith, and I think it's still strong. And I think God is good, too. I think this when I am praying in the shower in the morning that today would be a good day. I think this when I am sitting on the green floorboards of my back porch, watching leaves sway in the breeze and the dusk settle over the lawn, with my knees drawn up and my thoughts in high places. I think this even when I am crumpled on the floor, sobbing to the ceiling, and the only prayer I can come up with is please.
I'd like to think that God understands my need to be done with church for a little while. Maybe that makes me naive, maybe that makes me a "bad" Christian, maybe it means my faith is weak.
Or maybe I'm just gonna be done for a little while, and it's gonna be okay that I am.