Am I Failing the Church or Is the Church Failing Me?
This afternoon as I introspectively considered my experiences at church this morning, I realized something terrible. I’ve been going to church on Sunday mornings every single week since my work schedule changed back in February. I’ve been doing Bible studies once or twice a week as well, and showing up at *my* church’s extracurricular stuff, like dinners and Saturday night church services and women’s conferences. Seriously. I’ve probably been putting in like six to seven hours a week at church consistently since February.
And my terrible realization is this. I haven’t had a positive thought—a genuine, glad thought about being at these various church activities—hardly at all since I’ve been going. I won’t make an absolute statement here, because that wouldn’t be true (I have learned some really meaningful things here and there), but overwhelmingly I’ve just felt critical, or bitter, or disappointed about the things I’ve learned in church over the past nine months.
How did I get here? How did I get to this place where church is no longer my sanctuary, my safe place where everyone thinks and acts the same way I do? With all the soul-searching I’ve done over the last year, all the transformations I’ve gone through in what I believe about Christian doctrine, about God, about who I am as a believer in Christ, you’d think I’d be more tolerant of the people at my church who still think the way I used to. But I’m not. I’m angry at them. I’m angry that belief is so easy for them, that answers come without a second thought and without wondering if they could be wrong. I’m angry that everything makes sense and that they can water down the Christian faith into an easily navigable system of theology.
I can’t do that anymore, and I refuse to try. And my refusal to put Christianity, the Bible, God himself into a box makes me feel like an outsider in the one place I’ve always felt I belonged.
Church never taught me what to do when I feel as though I have more in common with the liberals of this world than the conservatives. It never taught me what to do when I can’t see past all the things that it has screwed up in me. Things like teaching me homophobia, like skewing the way I regard scripture, and like teaching me how to live rightly, but not necessarily how to love rightly.
I’m so very tempted to give up on church, to just leave it altogether for awhile. It’s become so very hard for me to see God there, and I can’t figure out if that’s because of me and my bitter heart, or if it’s because church is doing a lot of things so wrongly that the institution can’t be fixed. Even this vein of thought that I’m entertaining—this idea that the church exists to feed me, to bolster me, to conform to my idea of what it means to be a body of Christ—feels like a product of the individualized spin the church has always given on the Christian faith. The church is failing me when it doesn’t meet my expectations. Not the other way around.
And now I feel like screaming because I’m back to the self-blame. At the end of the day, I guess all I know is that I don’t feel at peace there in that place that is meant to be the sanctuary of God. Truth is, I haven’t for a long time.