Why I Keep Writing About Church

I write about Church a fair amount. It’s a touchy topic, one laden with emotion for many people. Church can be complicated and messy, and it can bring up bad memories or reopen wounds we thought had healed.

But I keep writing about Church because I keep seeing the good side of it, and in all the Church bashing that takes place, I sometimes think Church could use some cheerleaders. I haven’t always been in a place to be that person, and I know that I won’t always be. For now though, I able to champion Church, to remind us of the good of Church in spite of the bad.

Photo Credit: Flickr User  Arian Zwegers, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Arian Zwegers, Creative Commons

For much of my childhood and teenage years, going to church was something my family simply did. There were times when I enjoyed it well enough, though I don’t remember actively looking forward to going to church very often. The first two years of college, I bounced around churches a bit until deciding to stick with one for a few months. Finally, as I drove away in tears yet again because no one seemed to have the time to say hello to the college girl attending by herself, I figured God didn’t want that for me either.

Then, through a situation I can only describe as a “God thing,” I found out about a new church. I showed up once, and have kept showing up ever since. Almost every week I drive away from my church wishing I could hug it, feeling incredibly grateful that God has blessed me with this community for this season of life. It is nothing but a gift to be able to show up to the same place each week, to look forward to hearing sermons, singing songs, greeting friends and making making new ones, to seeing all the ways that God is using the church and the people in it to bring little pieces of his kingdom here. It is not we that are doing good things though, it is He. Anything good that comes from our church is simply an expression of God’s grace, and we are merely players in it.

I can’t tell you what the future holds for me, my church, or my involvement there, but right now, I don’t think I’ve ever been more certain that God has me somewhere for a reason.

I also fully realize good church experiences are not the case for everyone. I don’t want to deny or excuse the dark side of Church—the abuse, the exclusion, the hypocrisy, the judgment, the hurt—but I also don’t want to ignore the good side of Church because of those things.

So I will keep writing about Church, because maybe it can breathe hope to someone who has never felt this way about Church, thinks they will never feel this way about Church, doesn’t even believe it’s possible to feel this way about Church. I wish everyone could walk or drive or skip away from church wanting to hug it, because I think that’s how Church in its perfected state is supposed to be. It won’t always be that way, because sometimes Church is just really hard.

But it can be so, so good too.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What are some of your good church experiences?

Church Isn’t Easy

On Sunday I wrote a note on the wrong bulletin. (If you haven’t read about it, you can do so here).

It turned out to be something I, and a girl whose name I do not know, needed to hear.

The second version, the one that ended up on my own bulletin, was this:

Don’t let anyone tell you that going to and participating in church will always be easy. Few things that are truly worth having are easy.

Because this past Sunday I was overwhelmed by how much my soul needs church, which I’ve written about before. I hadn’t even realized my soul was tired until I found myself near tears during each song we sung. This is exactly why I need to come to church, I thought.

Photo Credit: Flickr User foto4lizzie, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User foto4lizzie, Creative Commons

The church I attend now has become exactly what I need in many ways, but it hasn’t been easy. For almost the first full year, and definitely the first few months, I felt awkward. I sat by myself most Sundays, something I was uncomfortable with, and didn’t know what to do with myself if I arrived too soon or if the greeting time stretched on too long.

Over time it changed as I began to meet more people, but there are still moments when I feel awkward. It’s not the church’s fault, but my own insecurity getting in the way of the larger purpose of the Church. Church with a capital C, as a community of believers who join together to worship and learn what it means to seek to live more like Jesus.

The reality is, Church will not always be easy. Perhaps especially if you attend by yourself, as I do, but for anyone—going to church can be hard. There have been times when I have driven away from a church with tears in my eyes, and not because the service was particularly moving (though that has happened too).

Taking the step of going to church, and the next step of getting involved with one, is really, really hard sometimes.

Church can be lonely. Church can be hurtful. Church can feel pointless. It is one of the main reasons people dislike the Church. I’ve been hurt by it and you’ve likely been hurt by it, and I am so, so sorry this is true. It really shouldn’t be this way.

The reality is that churches are comprised of people, and where there are people, there is brokenness and there is messiness. Some churches have more of it than others, but you will never find a completely perfect church on this earth. It does not exist.

Yet there is still so much good there. Despite the brokenness, despite the hurt, despite feeling that it may be pointless, Church can be a place of community, rest for the soul, learning, and so much more.

Things that are worth it are rarely easy, but they can be so, so good.

(More on that soon)

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

 

p.s. Has going to church ever been hard for you? Why or why not?

When We Ask “Why?”

My church meets in an elementary school.

Last Friday, states away, a horrific scene unfolded in another elementary school.

The connection was not lost on me.

And Sunday, when we gathered in a school that has not experienced such tragedy, “Why?” rang in my head.

It’s the obvious question, one that is being asked both of the gunman, and also of God.

Why would God let this happen?

I don’t know. That’s not a question I, or anyone, can fully answer.

 

But it has made me wonder about when we ask the “Whys”. Earlier last week, when a gunman took lives in a mall, and this past summer, when lives were lost in a Sikh temple and a movie theater, we asked, “Why?” When dramatic tragedies occur, everyone asks, “Why did God let this happen? Why didn’t he stop it?”

 

Though the stories are sometimes hard to find, there are other scenarios that could have ended in a similar way.

But they didn’t.

One took place on Saturday in Alabama, where authorities were called when a man was seen walking through a hospital with a gun. It resulted in several injuries, but police were able to locate the  gunman before any innocent lives were taken.

Also on December 14, a high schooler in Oklahoma was taken into custody after police heard of his plot to bomb and shoot his high school. More innocent lives could have been lost, but weren’t.

Yet few stop to ask “Why not?” of those situations and others like them.

 

Last Friday morning, I didn’t question why the sun came up, why my heart kept beating, why the people on the road next to me stayed in their lanes and followed traffic laws.

Yet as soon as I heard of the shooting, “Why, God?” flickered in my head.

On most news sites, mentions of God are infrequent; until a tragedy occurs, and people jump at the chance to claim that a loving God wouldn’t let this happen, and therefore must not exist. God is used as a sounding block in the pain of tragedies, and will virtually disappear from news sites within a few weeks. Some will remain angry, convinced this proves God’s nonexistence or lack of goodness, while others say the loss of innocent blood is some form of punishment. While I disagree with both of these views, I can’t help but notice that they state their views most strongly in the face of tragedy, then fade.

God often gets blamed for not stopping bad things, and rarely gets mentioned otherwise. He doesn’t get mentioned when bad intentions are thwarted, and when deeds of mercy and love are done, even by and for complete strangers.

In no way am I trying to downplay the horror of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary; I have no words for the sorrow of what those families and that community is facing.

 

What I am questioning is the types of questions we ask of God and when we ask them. We are so quick on the “Whys?” when something bad happens, yet so slow to ask “Why nots?” when a potential tragedy is avoided, or when good things happen unexpectedly.

We rarely ask “Why?” of things we have come to expect, or remember to accompany them with thankfulness for the goodness, faithfulness, and mercy God shows.

There are no promises that life will be easy, things always good, that tears will always flow from joy and not sorrow.

But there are times, even if only brief moments, when life is easy, when things are going well, when tears well up out of the sheer goodness of life. I hope that at least I will learn a lesson from tragedy, and take a moment to ask God “Why?” in the good.

And follow it with a thank you, thank you, thank you.

Because God is good. He is love and he is mercy.

And he is near to the brokenhearted.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~