I used to teach Sunday School with my husband.
Sing in a worship team.
Belong to a small group.
Lead a small group.
I once went to a large small group conference in a huge Calgary church. Well, that's what they called it. It ought to have been entitled: Business Management Proposals For Growing Church Numbers.
I used to go to a mom's group.
Now, I don't really fit church culture that well. And although I miss that, in a "family/community" type of way; I will never strive to fit that culture again. I won't try to iron out my theology so as not to offend or disappoint members. I won't jump on any bandwagons. I won't advocate for the survival of church programs that will further tire an exhausted group of well-intentioned parishioners. I probably won't stand when told to; unless of course my body wants to stand. I won't participate in church politics- trying to decide who is "right" and who is "wrong".
The point and the heart of what's been lost along the way is not a taste for rebellion or a desire for an anti-establishment attitude. It's a quiet thirst for the real thing.
So, when I sense that people in church feel sorry for me, it's sort of funny in a sad kind of way. I go to church because I want to be there. Because I believe in the flawed, troubling, bumbling concept of a group of people coming together and potlucking on their shared love for God. Because I believe that tolerance and patience with and for people begins there- even though it's one of the brutally hardest places not to judge or despise others. (I find my nasty little inner voice carrying on from time to time; but my forward thinking heart wants to practise tolerance).
I used to love church in a busy, bustley, belonging kind of a way. A blowing and blasting in with toddlers and babies kind of a way. A common ground for support in life's teary potholes.
Now I find that I am off the radar for being called to participate in groups and committees and teams and all that hustle bustle. Don't get me wrong- I'm not offended. I'd probably say "no" anyway, remembering how I don't prioritize bonified church-ified "ministries" to exercise my love for God.
But there is just this realization of the changes that have come down the pike for this little church lady. It's sort of a vulnerable feeling to know that I've trusted my spiritual health to a much "narrower" source- just the real thing. The real Spirit who can show up or not show up regardless of my church status. It's like moving forward in a walkathon without the safety of a group around me.
Now, for anyone who reads Blunderview with much regularity, I think it's clear that I'm not a great Christian by traditional standards. Few of my blog posts wrap up with a pertinent Bible passage. Few of my rambles conclude with a revelation of my true identity in Christ. Most of my posts look splashy, fiesty, morose, and multi-hued. A clear message of life-giving theology may never be pinned down here. Nor will the four spiritual laws.
But my heart is for God. For authenticity. For change, humility, and miracles. The miracles that come of hopelessly selfish and troubled humans reaching out to one another with the non-human strength of God.
I've lost some stuff along the way. But I'm sure that with that loss comes a greater capacity for actual transformation, less distraction by church culture, and more personal vulnerability.
I stand more alone in my stubborn faith than I ever have in my short life. But somehow in losing that comforting safety net around me, I know that living real is inevitable. And that's totally going to depend on the only source that isn't influenced by some person's opinion- the actual Spirit.
(I hope I don't lose much more time as a human stewing around in my own hurt feelings and petty grievances, and keep stretching towards a higher plain. As big a fan I am of the Holy Spirit, and as much as I do believe in miracles; I know that I am standing in my way a lot of the time. I don't much care what people think of my beliefs and unbeliefs. It would be nice if we could all get along, and stop spending so much time arguing about our own rightness. It's just a big, stupid, useless distraction. Just try to spend one hour practising the greatest commandment: Love the Lord your God with your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbour as yourself. You'll quickly discover that you don't have time to figure out if the other guy is right or wrong or otherwise. That whole loving thing is pretty much going to eat up all your time. That's the direction I'd like to be transformed along.)