Monday, September 1, 2008

I'm Lost

When we moved down here over 13 years ago, we were not church goers. Frank and I had both been raised Catholic but only attended church for things like weddings and funerals. We had really bad experiences with the Catholic church when we got married and when we had Nick baptized. So when we moved down here - to the Bible belt - we knew that something had to give. We needed to find a church. Just not a Catholic one.

I was fortunate enough to find exactly what I was looking for the first time out. I found my home at a kind-of-small baptist church. They were a young church, most of the families were around our age, it was contemporary and just so much what I always hoped a church would be that I felt right at home. I stayed at that church for eight years. I became a Christian there. I was baptized there. I participated in small groups, bible studies, women's ministries, MOPS (Mother's of Pre-schoolers) and worked in the nursery. It took a long time before I was no longer viewed as the "baby Christian" and was taken seriously in my pursuits. But after a time, things started to change. Suddenly my nice, friendly church, was no longer about what we originally thought, but was now all about the new building they were constructing. It wasn't enough that you were growing and serving, you had to be 'signed in' for everything. Your every moment on their property seemed to require approval and you had to be 'assigned'. That was SO not what I wanted in a church. This 'forced servitude' really put me off. My spiritual growth stopped and I became kind of bitter about the sudden change of rules. Wasn't serving a heart matter? Jesus never told us that you had to clock in, serve here/there in order to be in His presence! After much heart searching and inner debate, I knew it was time to move on.

Church number two was very, very small. I knew the pastor's wife and she had invited me many times and so when I finally showed up, she was thrilled. I didn't realize how small there church was, however. It was the kind of small group where EVERYONE knew when you arrived, when you left, how long you stayed, what you were wearing and what color socks you had on. I'm talking small. It was a nice group, but not truly what I was looking for. I decided to stay mainly because I wanted a church home and thought that after going through the 'bad growth' of my former church, maybe this little church would be a good thing. I became the head of the women's ministry, did a newsletter, and lead a bible study. But again, as time went on, the pastor was making demands on our time - telling us when to fast, when to pray. I don't know, maybe this is not a big deal to some people, but I believe that prayer and fasting, again, is something between me and God. If I am fasting because God told me to, then I would, my prayer time with Him is very personal. I am not going to fast because the Pastor said it fit in to his schedule and so we all should. By this point, the church had shrunk considerably and within a matter of about a month, had closed its doors.

We all moved on together to church number three which was an ENORMOUS church and easy to get lost in. I kind of liked that aspect of it at first. I spent over two years here trying to get in to it. Trying to find that spark of interest in anything. It just never came. I could sit through a sermon and not be able to tell you a thing about it when it was over. Not one of their Sunday school's held any appeal to me to make me want to try them. And to top it all off, Frank hated this church. He hardly ever goes to church to begin with , but with this church, he refused to go with me at all. That weighed heavily on my mind. So I stopped going.

It has been about a year since I've been in church. I miss my spiritual life. I can't seem to get up the enthusiasm to go out and find another church. Nick goes to church with his girlfriend and Frank has expressed interest in going there just to see what it's about. He's not looking to attend, so everyone just calm down. I've had friends invite me to their churches but I don't feel that 'pull' to go. When I was invited to that first church, I couldn't wait to go. When we were invited to the second church, I looked forward to trying it. When we hit the third church, I felt as if it was where I was supposed to be. But now? I am lost. I have no idea where to go or where to turn. I want the closeness and familiarity of that first church. I loved listening to that pastor. I could listen to him all day long. When Frank went with me, we could talk about the sermon all day long.

Why do churches have to change? Why do they feel the need to put such restrictions on things? How can you preach the New Testament and then put Old Testament rules on everyone? I don't get it. I want to pull a 16-year-old temper tantrum and yell "It's not fair!" and demand that everything go back to the way that it was, but I know it won't do any good. I want to go to church, I want to be fed with God's word and grow again spritually.

The only comfort I have in this right now is that I have met MANY people who are saying the same exact thing. I know that there is no perfect church and that we need to not focus on 'what the church can do for me' and instead focus on 'what can I do', but I'll tell you what, I can't go in to a church and tell a pastor that his sermon's are boring, change the music and find some interesting Sunday school's. I can't preach, I can't sing or play an instrument and I am not a teacher. If I could do even ONE of those things there might be hope. But right now there isn't.

Lost hope. That's how I feel right now. I have a friend who keeps reminding me that I need to be in church. Well, duh! But you know what, I'd rather never attend church again than sit in one and be a hypocrite. She is not one but I'm just saying that there are many who go to church every Sunday, they sing, they tythe but their hearts are not in it at all. So many people SEE them there and think "Oh, look, so-and-so's here so they must be a Christian". Well, you know what? I can guarantee you that a good percentage of the people sitting in the pews are not Christian and they are sitting there to shut someone else up. Cold, I know.

Somewhere out there, there is a church for me. I know that God has been trying to get my attention lately. I hear Him. I'm trying. I'm lazy. He knows that, too. I'm not perfect. I just pray that I find that home before all of my hope is gone.

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