Posted by: minnow | November 22, 2013

Lonesome Journey

I’ve written pieces of my spiritual story off and on since I started this blog almost seven years ago.  So you would think this SynchroBlog topic would be easy.  You would think…

I grew up in a small Presbyterian fellowship.  I respected the pastor, was in awe of his example, and felt like the congregation was my extended family.  When I was 12 my family moved.  We also quit going to church as a family shortly after I was “confirmed”.  For the next 20 years I never attended the same fellowship for more than 4 years.  My nomadic church life was mostly due to moving and a couple times due to my husband and I becoming part of new fellowship start ups.  About 6 years ago I left Building Based Christianity altogether and haven’t looked back, until now.

Recently I started wondering if giving the building another chance might be a good idea.  I miss the built-in fellowship of a weekly meeting.  I miss corporate singing.  I miss feeling lead to pray for people in specific ways.  I miss the critical mass that a group of like-minded people can lend to a project.  I suppose I could still pray for people in specific ways without needing to have them in front of me.  And, I could manufacture opportunities to fellowship in more meaningful ways than I currently do or than I did in the typical large group weekly meeting.  Honestly, the biggest road blocks to me developing fellowship are my own laziness and business.  But those aren’t the only road blocks.

In my experience gathering as a group, even a small group, can get messy fast.  I’d be afraid that the first time someone didn’t agree with my perspective on things I’d be likely to be outta there.  You see, I originally left the building because I didn’t see eye to eye with the new leadership.  They didn’t recognize women as worthy of equal leadership status.  They were always talking about giving to God but really meant–pay our salaries and maintenance costs since almost no money ever left the building.  The biggest reason I left, however, was that I didn’t trust anyone to have anything helpful to say to me about my floundering marriage.  (Secular counseling, on the other hand, has helped a lot, in case anyone was wondering).

Despite all the “It’s a relationship” preaching I received those doing the preaching and most of those sitting in the pews didn’t actually want a relationship with me–opinionated, struggling, angry, passionate–me.  They wanted women to remake themselves into submitted, servants.  They wanted men to remake themselves into giving pillars.  They wanted parents to raise only obedient children.  And, they wanted all of those people to willingly come under the authority of the man of God (or men of God) in the house, without question, paying his salary, footing the bills of the building and inviting their neighbors to come along as well.  If we could all just become smiling, salary earning cardboard characters “Church life” would be good.

But there’s a problem when a dad gets hit by a car or a mom gets cancer or a kid falls in with the “wrong” crowd, becomes pregnant, an addict, or worse.  There’s a problem when the neighbors you invite haven’t been properly churched and so don’t know how to give without questions.  There’s a problem when a woman is inexplicably called to preach but isn’t given a platform.  There’s a problem when instead of cardboard we actually have thinking, breathing, needing, people in the pews.  It’s called real life.

Not long after I left the building one of my son’s also left the building feeling his gifts and talents weren’t given a fair shake because he didn’t line up doctrinally with the leadership on the issue of hell.  Another son was told he wouldn’t be welcome as part of the prayer team as long as he claimed to be gay. (The fact he was a virgin didn’t actually matter.  Once again it boiled down to being on the wrong side of a doctrine).  Fairly recently my husband let go of a men’s leadership role and quit attending the Sunday morning services.  My oldest son and oldest daughter are currently pretty active with the youth in our old fellowship.  And, our youngest daughter goes to kid’s church most Sundays because her sister still lives at home and takes her.

Mine is not a particularly exciting story.  I have no epic confrontation to tell, no major emotional turmoil, not even much spiritual angst to speak of.  I simply walked out and several family members followed for their own reasons.  None of us have found a different building to “plug-into” though my husband still attends a Saturday morning prayer group and the first son I mentioned is pretty regular at a unrelated Bible study.  I suppose if/when we move after I finish school in April and find a teaching job, we (meaning my husband, youngest daughter, and me) will try out a couple fellowships.  I honestly don’t know.  Looking hasn’t exactly been a successful process in the past but my husband and I have gotten healthier and are beginning to make a distinction between our faith and man-made religion.

I used to resonate with the term emergent.  I don’t know now if the prevalent understanding of that term still has any personal relevance but the image it congers of coming out from under a weight or a blinding cover seems to still fit how I would describe my journey.  I am leaving the heavy trappings of should and must behind.  Instead of racking my brain trying to understand how to apply the law I choose to embrace to the best of my ability a love and grace filled understanding of who my God is and who I am as I reflect my Creator.  It’s a process I suspect will take the rest of my life.

***

These folks shared their stories too!

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Responses

  1. […] Margaret Boelman – Lonesome Journey […]

  2. […] Margaret Boelman – Lonesome Journey […]

  3. […] Margaret Boelman – Lonesome Journey […]

  4. Margaret, I love what you wrote and so much of it mirrors my own experience, thoughts and feelings.

  5. Thanks for sharing your story of leaving the building. I love this portion: “There’s a problem when instead of cardboard we actually have thinking, breathing, needing, people in the pews. It’s called real life.” I, too, have recently left the building when real life intervened and it seemed that not only was that a problem, but I was a problem myself. A part of me misses it and a part of me wonders if I’ll ever be able to go back.


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