The past three Sundays have been big for me – I’ve started going to church again. It’s been hard – I’m so excited to have taken this step that I want to tell everyone I meet, but it’s also so personal and nuanced that I don’t want to draw attention to it.
When I do tell people I tell them the half truth: “Since I don’t work for The Mouse anymore, I am free on Sundays! It works out!” I don’t mention the panic attacks. The fact that stepping foot into a church on my own would have me paralyzed in fear the night before a service. The fact that I am so terrified that people will see that I don’t belong. That they will know that I don’t agree with them on some key issues. That I’m a feminist. That I think gay people should be able to get married. That I’m a democrat. That I am afraid of The Church.
What makes matters worse is that I am so thirsty to be in community. My soul has been aching for Jesus. My need for the gospel has never been more evident to me than right now. But getting myself to a church? For the past year that has seemed impossible.
So I’ve entered this rock and a hard place situation. I need Jesus with every fiber of my being, but I’m so terrified to open up to people who claim to love him as well. The times I have opened up, it haven’t always been great. I’ve been told to buck up. Someone I trusted watched me in the middle of a panic attack, terrified to join her at a church service, and basically shrugged it off. I went with her a few times, but when the invitations stopped coming I was sort of relieved. And I secretly thought she was too.
I look online for some sort of guidance. I click the links that my Christian friends share and I’m told that it’s my fault. I’m too much of this world. I am swept up in sin. That is why I proclaim to be a feminist. That is why I care about gay marriage. That is why I’m a liberal. That is why I’m so tolerant – too tolerant. It’s all the sin that I love and it has nothing to do with The Church. It’s me and the rest of my generation. And that doesn’t sound right, but I don’t know. Because maybe it is my sin taking over my life. Would I be able to tell if that was the case? But if that is true, well where does it leave me? I’m still stuck needing Jesus and afraid to walk through the doors of a church.
I read that it’s The Church’s job to call me out in love. But it doesn’t feel like love. It feels like rejection. Someone on the other side of the internet with a keyboard and lots of opinions about a person they have never met. I’m told that I don’t believe enough of the right things, that I’m somehow not enough of a Christian, that I’m too tolerant (I still don’t understand this one). And all this reading gets me mad and sad and again I’m left knowing I can’t go to church because what if they look at me and they know I’m not good enough?
My friend recently shared this article on Facebook and I related to so many things.
“Church, can you love us if we don’t check all the doctrinal boxes and don’t have our theology all figured out? It doesn’t seem so.
Can you love us if we cuss and drink and get tattoos, and God forbid, vote Democrat? We’re doubtful.”
This author seemed to understand how I was feeling and I felt relieved. Until I clicked on a few “related articles” that told me I only liked this article because I was selfish and materialistic and that I was doing a horrible thing by sharing it and airing my dirty laundry with the church. I am supposed to suppress my feelings and stop expecting The Church to “meet my needs.”
But isn’t that part of what a church is supposed to do – help meet the spiritual needs of Christians? It’s not the only job of course, but isn’t it one of the jobs?
I want to love The Church. I know all the biblical reasons I am supposed to love The Church. I know I am supposed to accept the fact that The Church messes up sometimes and just go with it silently.
But I am scared of The Church. I am scared of being told I am not good enough. I am scared of being told I do not believe the right things. I am scared of being told that I am not a real Christian. I’m scared of being rejected – because if the bride of Christ rejects me, where does that leave me?
I want to be clear in this post: I have had the pleasure knowing and loving some amazing Christians in my life who have loved and supported me, who have tried to help me the best they could with this issue and others. I have been in some amazing bible studies with women who supported and loved each other. These people, some of whom may be reading this, these people are NOT what this post is about.
This post is about The American Church with a capital “C.” The Church is always admonishing me online because I’m a feminist, a liberal, a spoiled millennial. And The Church with a capital “C” is very ready to come at me and tell me all my faults in love.
I am still scared of The Church, but I crave Jesus, so I am praying for strength. I have found a church that I like. It isn’t too big to intimidate me, they love the bible, and I am going. I am getting in the doors. I’m not really talking to people yet, but I know that will come.
And after reading a few choice articles this week I decided to share this struggle because I doubt I’m the only one stuck in this weird nebulous space of needing Jesus so badly but being terrified of The Church. And if there are other people struggling with this, well then maybe knowing we are in this together will help us get over the fear and back in the doors of a church.