Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Not all those who wander are lost

A love heart that naturally occurred in my coffee. A love note from Him.

A funny thing happened to me when I started to attend a church 3 years ago. This church was just like any other church I had attended over the last 20 years. There was nothing different about this one. But I was different. Having just overcome depression by relying solely on Holy Spirit to guide me through, I had for the first time in over 15 years since becoming a Believer in Jesus, an intimate relationship with God. I had learned through my struggle with depression to hear the 'God whispers' in my spirit that were just for me. I had learned to hear His voice in an individual, personal and unique way, tailored for one.

Interestingly enough, after attending this church for 3 years, I ended up as far away from God as I had been in years. I didn't notice it at first. The distance was subtle and gradual. So how did I end up distant from God? I believe it was because I was so busy trying to keep up with church life. In my insecurity and longing to belong, I desperately changed myself into what I thought people from the church wanted me to be. I enthusiastically supported church events, posted about my church on social media and did all I could to fit in. Except when it came down to it, it was never enough.

I listened to the message on a Sunday morning. I took notes. I read the bible verses that we were given to talk about in connect groups at mid-week small groups. But none of this brought me closer to God. In fact, it did the opposite. It drove me further away. I believe that it was because it wasn't organic or natural. It was stiff and felt forced. Sunday mornings were not the time to be social. It was a work day for many church members. Socialsation was for connect groups. I found myself wandering around on Sundays looking for people to connect with, but they were busy, oh so busy.

I know this hasn't been everyone's experience with churches. In fact some people seem to thrive in this environment, and that's great. This church has some amazing people in it with such beautiful hearts. But for my husband and I, who craved community and time after time, came away with a sense of loneliness, instead of the authentic community we so desired, we just said, "enough!" We became tired of people being put on pedestals as superstars. The harder you worked within the church, the more people accepted and loved you. We became tired of striving.

When I fell into a depression earlier this year, and stopped attending church, very few remained in contact with me. After coming out of the depression, I saw no point in going back to church. Church had not helped me overcome depression. When I needed community most, only a handful of people stood by me.

And so, over the last few months, I have struggled with guilt. I have felt guilty for turning away from the church. I have felt lost and thought, "what now?" But now, I have come to a point where I have accepted that this is part of my journey - my wilderness. And it is OK not to go to church in this season. I feel myself little by little restoring the intimate relationship I had with God before I allowed my insecurity and desperation for friendship to cloud my decisions.

I am redefining my definition of church and I have questions, oh so many questions.
Why do we have to go to church every Sunday?
Why do we all go and listen to one person speak?
Why are people so afraid of showing their true selves on Sunday mornings?
Why does the church spend so much time saying, "Come!", when Jesus said, "Go!"?
Why do I feel like I don't fit in with other Christians?
Why do I feel closer to God away from church?
Why has the church been a 'house of pain' for me rather than a 'house of healing'?
Why is it that I feel so judged by other Christians for asking these questions?

I believe that God is not afraid of our questions. In fact, He welcomes them. I see others asking similar questions, and I know that I am not alone in the wilderness. I may never get all my questions answered, and I am OK with that. My soul yearns to be close to Him again as in years gone by and in my question asking, I feel Him close by. He is patient and long-suffering with me. He is love.

All that is gold does not glitter, 
Not all those who wander are lost; 
The old that is strong does not wither, 
Deep roots are not reached by the frost. 
From the ashes a fire shall be woken, 
A light from the shadows shall spring; 
Renewed shall be blade that was broken, 
The crownless again shall be king. 
J.R.R. Tolkien

Still taking lessons from the King,

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  1. Oh Jo, we are SO on the same journey. I started questioning the "come" as opposed to the "go" a few years ago before my change in church. And I agree totally with EVERYTHING you have said here about the church. I believe that it has morphed into a obscure mingling of people, many who don't realise that they are propping each other up and not letting God do it. I'm not against church as a place to meet, but I strongly believe that the definition of it needs - urgently - to be redefined and likened to how it was when it was first formed in the New Testament. Go out among the sinners and be Jesus for them. Not tell them to come into a building where they don't grasp why believers meet. SHOW them Jesus first, then invite them in. Pxo

    1. Yes, the church seems to be more concerned with getting people to church than being Jesus to people.

    2. It's an interesting conundrum. I can see that I, like you, have been "thrashing" for a while. (I must read Mandy's book.) The whole "church" thing has become messed up, and I think the "thrashing" starts when God chooses one to be Jesus to the outside world instead of just within the church. People have a tendency to really let others down and, like you said, especially Christians. We are both guilty of that (and with each other), but I do believe that the deep, and I mean DEEP, seeded longing to REALLY flourish in our walk only comes when we can put everything in perspective, ie church, outside of church, people - Christian and non-Christian, etc. To do that requires complete faith in Him (my post yesterday in that we can't do it all but God can), hence the thrashing. (Gosh I'm rambling!) xo

    3. I have been struggling with this as well! I have recently found a church that seems to be proclaiming the message, "Come so that we may send each other out!" The church should be a place to gather and encourage. Not a place to get lost in and caught up in. Not a place to enter and never leave because that is your ministry.

      God is teaching me so much about Himself and I'm realizing, too, that it's okay to not understand and to not go to church. And more importantly, how easily and often we as Christians judge each other! We all know that we sin. So let's forget about the sin and focus on one thing: God.

      It was a pleasure reading this post, Princess Warrior :)

  2. Yes! This: "It drove me further away. I believe that it was because it wasn't organic or natural. It was stiff and felt forced." Me, too.

    I am redefining church, too. I love your questions. In glad we are running in the desert with Him together. And that is one of my favorite Tolkein quotes!


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Jo Princess Warrior xo