I grew up in the church.
We “church-hopped” often–that’s my term for when you’re “in between” churches, when you want to go but don’t know where, so you keep trying new ones till one of them sticks.
I didn’t like that part.
I loved my church families–the childhood memories from my first church. The book binding sessions with a lady we called “G” at the next one, getting the library set up.
Discovering Left Behind: The Kids at the next one.
Finding a second family at the fourth church. Discovering “gifts of the spirit” in the fifth. Interning with the sixth. Loving the seventh.
But I don’t go to church anymore.
It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s that I’ve been one (seven) too many times.
I’ve noticed something–when you don’t show up for church, people do not pursue you.
Oh, they’ll tell you they’ve missed you. They’ll tell you they love you–when you’re there.
But very few will follow after you when you leave.
And that’s important–very important–to me, because that’s my love language. I’m very “keyed in” towards other people’s mentailities and emotions; I’m always feeling you out to see whether you like me–and how much.
And part of that is insecurity. But I’m done making excuses for the church’s behavior. Because y’know what?
I felt more accepted at community college than I did at youth group.
I emphasize this point, because that is not a place to go for love and acceptance. People are coming and going–sometimes, only for a class. Maybe two.
Maybe they’re trying to earn a degree, maybe you’ll find some people who are pursuing the same career that you are–but chances are good that you will never see these people outside of one class.
Contrast to a 4-year, even a 2-year types college, where even when you just want to hole up in your room you can’t escape the communities that form around everyone different interests.
And no, it wasn’t perfect. They didn’t particularly pursue me, either.
But it was still noticeable, and very disappointing.
Cry your eyes out, what should I do, why don’t they like me disappointing.
I’m not saying that the church is horrible, so you should seek the secular, because the secular still leaves me wanting. I long for people who can understand the spiritual….
but I also long for people who can do so in a secular way. And that’s a topic for another day, but the point is, the church is doing something wrong.
And nobody seems to want to hear it.
I’ve been told to just show up, that there are different kinds of friendships, that the problem is me and I should just try harder, and I say: NO way.
I’m done blaming myself.
Maybe I should have done something different. And I definitely need to work on a lot of things–I know that. I’m always correcting, refining, redefining myself and how I do things. I know I do things wrong. I know that, since this is a pattern, there is probably something about me that is affecting my relationships.
I also know what love looks like. And it doesn’t look like this.
Love pursues. Love protects. Love calls and asks, “Hey, any reason you didn’t show up on Friday?”
I’m not talking about convincing kids to go to youth group. That’s not the fix. Youth group was great–but it also rejected me. And I’m not bitter, not anymore, but it makes me so angry. Not because I hate anyone involved.
It’s precisely because I love them.
It’s because I’ve seen their hearts–how they love their friends. How they love Jesus. How they love God.
So it was hard for me to understand, “How can they have so much love and not love me, too?”
Now I understand.
I understand that humans are flawed, that no matter how much you’d will it into being, you cannot force a friendship.
That some people just “click” as friends, and some people just won’t–even if they’re good for each other.
But I’m getting off-track.
What I’ve seen is that the church does not listen to criticism; that its humans, though deeply flawed, are convinced they are in the right.
What I’ve seen is devastating–because to me, something that could be great and is merely good is far more heartbreaking than something that was bad to begin with. I’ve seen the secular world has a level of acceptance that the church cannot copy, and the church has a love that the world cannot copy.
Those two things should be the same.