I grew up going to church because my parents brought me. Later, I went to church because it was the right thing to do, and also because the boy I liked went there. In college I didn’t go to church for awhile because I had freedom, and then I ended up back in the pews as my intellect prodded me to dig and dig and dig into the meaning of the world and existence and truth.
For the last 10 years, I’ve not-gone-to-church about 15 Sundays, total. It’s pretty ingrained. And yet, a Sunday “off” from church doesn’t feel like freedom anymore, it feels like an emptiness, I mourn it. Like, every single time. And yes, the pandemic brought this realization into even sharper focus for me.
When I go to church, it’s not the on-fire preaching that draws me, or the rapturous music, or the gaggle of BFFs eager to chat. Church is the physical place where I go and practice the truth for an hour — it recalibrates me from the habits of my week.
I need to experience again the truth that I cannot do everything on my own, that I need to be poured into, that I need to face my shortcomings and choose a different path, that I am not self-sufficient, that I do not always have the right answer, that the world is too much for me to save and I’m not meant to do it anyway, that I am not alone, that my suffering is not unique, that I do have gifts to offer, that I have value.
No where else in my life does all this. The yoga mat might provide a few, affirmations or drinks with friends might provide a few more, reading or writing or a course might give me some others of these truths, but no where in my whole experience confronts me with all the truth all at once in an overwhelming tidal wave of surrender, conviction, forgiveness, peace, and joy.
And online, I’m way too distractible — I have the privilege of a healthy body and access to transportation, and I just haven’t found that I get tidal-waved if I’m staring at a screen. The truth is too easy for me to ignore, the attack from all sides which forces my re-focus on truth is easily averted by organizing my desk while church is “on” in the background. I need the accountability of a community, the disciplined drive of an order of worship, the inconvenience of a pew and the expectation of silence; these drag me toward the path of truth and I’m stuck there at their mercy — where my transformation begins.