I meant to write this post a long time ago.
After my “Where the Church Lost Me” series, I had a few people ask me where I am now and I intended to use that as a follow-up post. But every time I approached my keyboard, I froze.
Over the last few years I’ve had a hard time figuring out what to do on Sunday mornings. I feel guilty not being in church every Sunday, but I don’t feel comfortable doing that yet.
After I left the church I grew up in, I moved to a church that had an incredible loving, non-judgmental environment that was full of learning, people who stole my heart, and Hebrew/Greek context to the teaching. But that church ended up closing its doors due to a lack of funds and a dwindling congregation.
We did the house church thing for a while, but that didn’t last because we didn’t have a sustainable group or model. There were two different churches I attended in spurts that I really loved, but our house is now about forty minutes from each, which is too far for us.
Every time I walk into a mainline church there is an instant flight response. The sights, sounds, smells, and phrases are immediately familiar. (Thank you, Baby Albert.)
This looks the same. It feels the same. The music is the same. The people say the same things. It’s happening again. It’s happening again. I have to get out. I can’t do this. I have to get out NOW.
Then my brain happily reminds me that I know exactly what’s going on. I have that outfit hung up and all I have to do is slip into it and no one will ever know the difference. I can slip right back into that culture and be the good black-and-white girl I left all those years ago. I knew how settle in there once, and I can surely do it again if I have to. (Or I sometimes like to think I could.) So, just for today, just for this Sunday, can’t I just be comfortable?
Come on, it’s no big deal. You can fit in. You have before. It’s okay, just calm down. You remember what this feels like, you liked it before. They will love you here; you’re a pro! You know the answer they want to hear to that question, so just give it to them. It’s okay, it will be all right. You’ll be comfortable in no time. They want you back—it can be your home again.
That’s when I saw that it calls to me like vertigo.
In the book “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera, the author describes “gravity” as the trappings of unhealthy but comfortable patterns embedded in our own histories. “Vertigo” is the heavy wish to fall back into those trappings.
The main character in the book, Tereza, has a mother who finds nothing sacred about the body. She would walk around naked in front of her friends, laugh at her own flatulence in front of them, and make fun of her daughter’s body because she thought that the body was just useless skin and that it was not beautiful.
Thus, through the rest of the story, Tereza constantly faces a choice. Gravity is the heaviness of the memories of her mother and the pull it has in herself. Vertigo is the magnetism and wish to fall back into what she learned from her mother instead of being healthy and fighting to live a different way. She can parade naked in front of her friends or treat her body like it’s beautiful and find someone who treats it as sacred.
There are days when the fight wears you down and it feels heavy. That’s the vertigo trying to pull you into a warm, but suffocating embrace.
So when I walk in, I get the rush of the flight sensation, then the attempt to settle coming from the rational side of my brain, then the freak out all over again. Ad nauseum.
I’m not looking to join a “church home”. All I want now is to not feel like I’m in danger. I just want to feel okay.
Once again, my friend Kathy Escobar has written a killer post, “When Easter is Hard”, where she sends out love to us awkward-in-between-wounded-ex-church-folks. She quotes Phyllis Mathis:
“When the thought of walking into a church makes you feel a little sick. When nothing related to ‘church’ feels safe or good right now.”
Thankfully we have found a place to go on Sunday where nothing is threatening. The pastor is a great person and I know him and the staff aren’t out to get me. My friends are there to take care of me. And I know what comes from the pulpit is from a heart of sincerity and deep kindness. The messages have left me with nuggets to spiritually chew on.
So, a lot of it is me. I can finally rest, knowing that objectively nothing is hurting. Now I just need to let myself move through this period of mourning and alarm. Keep seeing that there is no danger, that there is good. It reminds me of lyrics in the song “Bury Me With It” by Modest Mouse:
We were shooting at a mound of dirt. Well, nothing was broken, nothing was hurt.
Maybe I can do this.
Photo credit: Flickr / laffertyryan