I didn't go to church on Easter Sunday. I haven't been to church since before Christmas. Doesn't that mean that yesterday would have been the perfect day to find myself in a pew? Aren't Christmas and Easter the two days of the year when people who don't go to church go to church?
I really didn't want to be that guy. I didn't want to be one of the ones that only went to church because it was Easter. For me, that reasoning would be hollow and meaningless.
Some of you may be confused as to where I'm coming from or where I'm going with this. After all, in the past I've written about my faith and beliefs. I've mentioned a number of times how important church was to me and my family when I was growing up.
As a kid, I remember being at church pretty much any time the doors were open. Sunday mornings for Sunday school and the worship service. Sunday nights for the much less popular evening service. Wednesdays meant dinner in the fellowhip hall, followed by youth group activities and youth choir practice. Thursday nights, we were there hanging out with the other kids while our parents were in the adult choir rehearsal. And then there were the special events: lock-ins, pot lucks, musical programs, etc.
So what happened?
It would be easy for people to look at someone like me and assume I've lost faith in God. You know, if I weren't in my shoes with the knowledge of what I truly believe, I'd probably assume that too. There isn't much evidence to look at, but let's look at it. I dropped out of seminary after three semesters. I've flip-flopped on the idea of being called to full-time ministry more than once in my life. And as mentioned above, I haven't been to church since December. And for several months before that, I wasn't even attending anywhere regularly. I mean, that doesn't look good, right?
Well, let me assure you and my mother, who I'm sure worries but doesn't say anything, that I have absolutely not lost faith in God. The faith I've lost is the faith that I once had in people.
Over the years, I've had a few negative experiences within the church setting. One recent event occurred when a fellow church member was going through a difficult time. Instead of embracing the opportunity to reach out and show the love of Christ to someone who desperately needed it, the leaders in the church forced that person away, choosing to perpetuate lies and gossip to tear them down. I didn't like what I was seeing, but when I tried to stand up beside this person, I was told by those leaders that I should mind my own business and that I didn't know anything about what was going on. In reality, I knew more about the situation than they.
That's only one example. I could give others, but I don't want this to turn into an attempt to receive pity. Actually, my own experiences probably pale in comparison to others' negative church experiences. While some are able to handle the bad times with grace and then move on in a healthy fashion, I am not.
I heard a wise pastor once say that if you find the perfect church, get out of it as soon as you can. If you stay, you're just going to mess it up. It's kind of a double-edged sword. The church is made up of people for people. But people are imperfect and will inevitably mess up that system. No matter where I go, no matter what church I check out, I'm going to find hypocrisy. There will be a lot of places where I'll hear a pastor preach one thing but practice something different.
This all boils down to my personal issues. The way I see it, church should be the kind of place where one can go and feel comfortable. I'm not saying that people won't go some days and hear the Word of God preached and not feel convicted, which can lead to a certain amount of temporary discomfort. No, I'm talking about feeling comfortable being around other believers. If you're in a church, you should be able to open yourself up to others, because these are the people who are supposed to help you grow. These are the people who should be able to call you out when you've messed up, and then take you by the hand and continue to love you anyway. If you can't make yourself vulnerable, how can you open yourself up to love or be loved?
And I think I just pinpointed the reason why I've remained single all these years. I just can't seem to convince myself that the risk is worth the reward. Until I do, I may not be able to find comfort in relationships with other people.
Church is not a bad thing. Please don't interpret what I've said to mean that. I understand just how important the church is to the life of a Christ follower. I understand the importance of finding a group of people who share similar beliefs and ideals. I even get the whole "iron sharpens iron" thing. But again, there has to be a certain amount of vulnerability for growth to occur.
So yes, I still have my faith in God. The question is, do I have enough faith in Him to believe that He can restore a little bit of my faith in humanity?