For some time now, I’ve woken up every Sunday and thought to myself, “What am I going to do today?” And with the exception of the obligatory Fall tradition that is seven hours of commercial-free football on NFL RedZone, the answer is usually, “Whatever the heck I want to do today.”
I’ve not been to church since November 8, 2020. Even this is somewhat of a misnomer given that day was my last day of work at Wiregrass Church in Dothan, Alabama. As the Director of Guest Services, my Sundays were busy, tending to our volunteers and working to create the most welcoming environment possible for our guests. Across both services, there was very little of the message I could actually take in. Even before I became part of the staff, I was active in volunteering at the church, so it’s hard for me to say when was the last time I simply walked into church, took in the sermon, and walked out.
I look back fondly at my time at Wiregrass, specifically interacting and working with my volunteer team. Being able to serve them so they could serve others was always the highlight of my week. But as I look back – and if I am honest with myself – I don’t miss it.
I don’t know what exactly caused the internal friction that lead me to resign from my position with the church, and I cannot put into words the tension I felt the last several months before I left. But it was there and it was palpable and it was real. “I just can’t do this anymore,” kept ringing in my thoughts as I drafted my resignation letter.
For the better part of two years, I’ve been grappling with that experience and the absolute non-interest I have in returning to a church environment. Keep in mind, this has nothing to do with my faith. My relationship with God is quite possibly the strongest it has ever been. Challenges with my work and home life have led me to trust in Him more, and I continue to learn to surrender my burdens to His will. My days begin with time in Scripture and my prayers have been more intentional.
Still, there’s a part of me that has felt off-kilter or broken because going to church every week was such a part of my normal for so long. What’s wrong with me? Why do I feel this way? Am I doing something wrong? How do I fix this? Do I need to fix this? Pangs of guilt and self-condemnation would roll over me from time to time as quiet Sunday mornings gave way to productive Sunday afternoons.
Then I came across this post by John Pavlovitz. John’s voice is not for everyone, but it resonates with me. He has the ability to put into words many of the thoughts and feelings I carry in my heart as I look across the landscape of our country. Undoubtedly, there will be many who immediately dismiss John’s writings because of his stance on issues. I get that. Yet, I find the nuance of his words to be comforting. His posts come from a place of compassion and are driven by his conviction to see others not as different, or dangerous, or enemies, but rather as people who are to be loved. His words affirm the notion of seeking reconciliation of differences through understanding and not binary platitudes that promote further division.
In reading his post, I was struck by something he said:
“Any guilt you feel is unwarranted. You aren’t rejecting God as much as you are removing yourself from harm’s way. You’re refusing to wear something that no longer fits. You’ve outgrown this thing that doesn’t feel like Love anymore and you are seeking something that does—and this is what the spiritual journey has always been.”
Perhaps I am, for now, an outsider looking in. Perhaps this is a season in my life in which I’ve relegated myself to the sidelines of formal religion. Perhaps a year from now I will look back at this blog post and laugh as I get ready to go to a Sunday church service. But what I do know is I find God in the interactions I have with my neighbors, my family, and my friends. I know that a community of two can be as rewarding and enriching as a community of two hundred. I know that I can be the church wherever I am, and that I should strive to reflect God’s love in all that I do, regardless of what day of the week it is.