When you grow up a pastor’s daughter, not going to church really isn’t an option. You’d better be wheezing with a cough or have a death grip on a porcelain toilet bowl if you want to get out of Sunday attendance. At least, that’s how it was for me growing up. Sunday mornings, two services; Sunday nights, one service,;Wednesdays, youth group; Thursdays, worship practice; Fridays, prayer meetings; Saturdays, more prayer meetings – the requirements were never ending.
It was exhausting, at times. But I did love it so. When I grew up and went to college, I chose one affiliated with my religion for a variety of reasons (one being that with the way financial aid worked out, it was actually cheaper for me than going to a public school would have been). I spent four more years in church or church-like environments, with chapel three times weekly and Bible classes and prayer groups and missions meetings.
I thought this is where I stopped loving it so much. The truth is, I was burnt out on church a long time ago. I thought perhaps it happened when I left an abusive home environment and my parent’s church essentially disowned me, and that’s definitely part of it. I thought maybe my views on gay rights, feminism, and social justice were what was separating me from church. But there are churches that practice Christianity and believe in all those things, so that can’t be it entirely.
I have been absent from writing this column for some time now because I felt hypocritical writing a column called “Faith Forays” all while experiencing struggles in my own faith. The thing I’ve realized, though, is that faith is not about having everything all figured out. It’s hard to let go and realize that there are things I don’t know, questions I haven’t been asking of myself, and doubts that I didn’t even recognize I was carrying. Not knowing where I stand in my own faith is shaky ground and it’s tiring and confusing stuff.
I think the concept of organized religion is something that’s very valuable to many people, but it has wounded me so deeply that I’m not sure if I will ever be able to go back. I have not been attending church regularly for some time, and just recently began to make my peace with that. I come from a conservative, Bible-thumping, evangelical Christian background, and there are many things in that community that I cannot believe in or stand behind any longer. I can’t go to a church without feeling trapped, skeptical, and cynical. If that’s how I feel every time I walk through those doors, I’m pretty sure the purpose of going has been lost for me. There isn’t one specific reason why I stopped going to church – there are so many, and they all combined to make one giant ball of angst in my chest and a sigh of relief when I stay home every Sunday.
There are some things I know I still believe, though. “Christian” is such a wide, wide label, and I probably still fall under it, somewhere. But going to church? It just isn’t for me anymore. I find value in different spiritual practices, but church isn’t one of them now. I’m not sure how long that’s going to be the case, but right now, it feels like it might be forever.
Church of any kind, under any religion, is so often more about the community than anything else. Disconnecting from that community is a really hard thing to do. I wonder if anyone else has felt this way when the slow fade away from church involvement has happened in their lives. If you’ve got a story, I’d love to hear it! I have a feeling I’ll be figuring things out for a while. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that faith is a journey that never ends.