What do you do with your Sunday’s now?

Currently I’m reading a book called “Searching for Sunday” by Rachel Held Evans. She was raised in a religious home and was a model child in the church growing up. However, when she went to Seminary College she began to doubt some things and eventually left her home church. I know that by the end of the book she is back in a church again but I don’t know which one or how she gets there yet. She makes some statements that certainly resonate with me even though our experiences are different.

She writes of her involvement in her church as a young person:

“I’m not sure I can ever calculate the value of that community, the sense of belonging and of being loved. It never occurred to me that such a fire could be washed out.”

Just as I never ever thought I would leave the meetings.

She also writes:

“There are recovery programs for people grieving all kinds of things….or books on how to cope…but no one really teaches you how to grieve the loss of your faith. You’re on your own for that.”

For me, I didn’t lose my faith but I lost my group.

Later she says her fellow Christians didn’t want to listen to her, or grieve with her, or walk down that frightening road with her. They wanted to fix her. Boy, I could relate there. No one has ever asked me how I got from Point A to Point B. This is a large part of the reason I started this blog. I want people to know how I got from Point A to Point B. It was that important to me.

The author went on to say,

“Looking back, I suspect their reactions had less to do with disdain for my doubt and more to do with fears of their own. They weren’t rejecting me for being different, they were rejecting me for being familiar, for calling out all those quiet misgivings most Christians keep hidden in the dark corners of their hearts and would rather not name.”

I think this is true of the friends and workers as well. I’m sure many of them have asked similar questions like I did, or had similar doubts and fears but they are terrified of anyone knowing. I get that.

She goes on:

“I was so lonely in my questions and so desperate for companionship, I tried to force the people I loved to doubt along with me. I tried to make them understand.”

I think an important fact here is that we as friends and workers or ones who are former friends or workers think of our experience as uniquely ours, when in reality, we are finding out that others in other groups felt the same thing and experienced much the same thing. That was an eye opener, I remember. For instance, the author of that book wrote about her experience and further said,

“I wasn’t the only one who was lonely on Sunday morning.”

She tells about having friends who struggled for years to disentangle themselves from abusive, authoritarian churches, and others who were kicked out for getting divorced or for being gay. She said that wasn’t her story though.

I have no serious injuries to report, no deep scars to reveal. I left a church of kind, generous people because I couldn’t pretend to believe things I didn’t believe any more.”

That is my story as well. I didn’t leave because I was offended or mad or bitter. I left because I didn’t believe in the same things the group did and I no longer could pretend to.

Elizabeth Esther recently wrote on her blog a post about “When loneliness threatens to swallow you whole“.  She writes about the empty hours that result when you leave a church you’ve been in your whole life. What do you do with your Sunday’s?

She says:

“The unscheduled hours often felt like a cavernous vacuum. We didn’t know how to live our lives without someone telling us what to do, where to go, when to arrive, and when to leave. What did normal people DO with all their spare time?…I’d told myself that leaving The Assembly was the solution we’d been waiting for, that freedom was all we needed to create our new-and-improved lives. I’d assumed that I could easily cobble together a patchwork quilt of belonging. If I drank Diet Coke, wore the right clothes, attended a thriving megachurch, and made friends with Southern California Christians, I’d find my place. I’d find my home.”
(~excerpt from Girl at The End of the World, page 152, 154)

Here’s one thing I know for sure: loneliness is real and it keeps coming back.

Perhaps loneliness is a kind of homesickness. What if my loneliness is homesickness for God? What if loneliness is homesickness for home I’ve rarely known, a home more Person than place? I’ve tried to assuage this homesickness with everything other than God.

I feel she is right and it is definitely worth spending some time thinking about.

And then there is trying new churches. Rachel (Searching For Sundays) explains:

“I scoffed at the idea of being taught or led. Deconstructing was so much safer than trusting; so much easier than letting people in.  I knew exactly what type of Christian I didn’t want to be, but I was too frightened, or too rebellious, or too wounded, to imagine what might be next.  My cynicism protected me from disappointment, or so I believed, so I expected the worst and smirked when I found it. Perhaps the most unsettling thing about a new church is the way the ghost of the old one haunts it.  For better or worse, the faith of our youth informs our fears, our nostalgia, our reactions, and our suspicions.  I measured every new experience by what I loved or hated about evangelicalism (her previous church) which put all these good churches filled with good people in the rather awkward position of a rebound boyfriend.”

I doubt there is a one of us who have come out of the meetings who haven’t struggled with this issue.  Finding fault with every other church was so much easier than letting new people in.  And do we ever get away from the ghost of our meeting background haunting everything new?  I don’t think so.  There are no perfect people, no perfect churches.

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14 thoughts on “What do you do with your Sunday’s now?

  1. When we first left the meetings we went to a church that was exactly what we needed. After several years passed I felt more and more the need to attend other churches, not so much to find a new or different truth but to meet new people and new ways of worship. As a truck driver, worship in the typical sense isn’t the easiest, so Kevin and I have our Sunday rituals. But, one thing we have recognized is that the body of Christ is “The Church” so whenever we meet with fellow believers we recognize this as worship. We have broken bread at tables of all kinds with our friends… the church.

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    • Sherlene…I was reading Darla’s blogs to our dear friends who just left 4 years ago and all this information has been sooo encouraging. We left 30+ years ago, so this has all been therapeutic to me as it is my first contact with anyone who has left. When I read your comments, our friends said, “that sounds like OUR friends”…Ruth and Duane said to tell you hello!

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  2. Thank you for how practical your recent posts are. All of your posts are so helpful. I love when people talk “real” tho.

    Loosing most of our friends all at once because we heard and felt God calling us in a different direction is a shock. No matter how you slice it but it hits at intervals for me. This summer, I experienced running into a worker at a store. I have to admit to a deep down feeling of thankfulness that would not have been there right after I quit going to meetings. But also the difficulty of seeing him judge me.

    Will I ever get over that? I so long for our Lord to return. ..

    Keep posting tho. It helps me- gives me alot to think about!

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  3. Grieving the loss of faith, that is an interesting concept. Can a person grieve that which they didn’t believe but others thought you believed? Will add this book to my list to read soon.

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  4. Since moving, to Redding, CA., we have personally encountered many who have had challenging or disastrous church/faith group related experiences. It’s not uncommon, but doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. When we knew we must leave meeting, we prayed not to be deceived or go where the Lord would not lead us. Not sure who we could trust, we started to listen to many online sermons from different Christian churches, all over the USA and beyond, comparing what we heard and what we understood from the Bible. We kept encountering a Gospel message, that didn’t alter. Different churches had different methods in message delivery or worship music, but the message of Jesus, was clear and constant. After that, before we stepped into any other faith group, we looked to see what their “written statement of Faith” was. If the basics of Christian doctrine, were off, we didn’t feel they were safe teachers or preachers of God’s Word. We left meeting, realizing it was not in alignment with Christian doctrine practiced by 99% of Christ followers. Personally we felt Jesus, convict us, that we were not saved. Our meeting profession, based on the faith of our works and those of the ministry, was lacking. Mathew 7:21, really tugged me to question if I was truly saved. In meeting, I talked about God allot and even loved the idea of him, but the Holy Spirit showed me, I didn’t know Jesus, intimately. Real change began when I committed my life to Christ, nothing more or less. He continues to change me from the inside out. All because of His saving Grace, available to all who call on Him. I believe He wants us all to be His church as He draws us first to Himself and together to do His work for the unsaved. Biblically, we should be in a local body of believers, don’t give up if you’ve had some bumps and bruises. It is not good for man to be alone. Pray for Him to lead you where He wants you. You can trust that prayer. A book that has been a big help is one our women’s group is reading: What’s Your God Language?, by Dr. Myra Perrine (she attend and speaks occasionally at our church). If you’re discouraged, you may be trying to fellowship, outside of your God given spiritual temperament and not being fed or energized. This book has been SO liberating, so right on to stay connected to God, in the way He designed you! You can find the book at Amazon by searching for “Myra Perrine”.

    The search for more of Him, is the wonderful adventure that will leads onward and often out of our comfort zones. He Is our Comfort, waiting to meet us and walk with us as we seek Him. He is not hiding Himself or only revealing Himself to a select group. We knew we weren’t safe on our own, without other Jesus followers, in our day to day real life. We could get weird and isolated, in our own thinking. We needed to be challenged to grow, have other believers pray for us in person, within a safe environment. Being in a healthy church, allows us to ask questions, be accountable and at times uncomfortable. Experiencing messy love in action, learning to love an unlovable brother or sister in or out of Christ, teaches me allot about myself. We daily need to ask Jesus to give us, His eyes and heart for others. Without Him we can’t continue to do it, believe me I’ve tried! We love our church and believe Jesus wants us to belong to a church. Healthy churches are a wonderful place to grow up in. Many members who have come out of some sad, bad and dysfunctional faith backgrounds, but can find a safe place. In addition to Sunday AM services there are numerous home study life groups during the week. Redding is a town with many Christian churches and Simpson Christian University, some great teachers who unpack the scripture, within context and content of the original Hebrew and Greek language. We love Church, Jesus shows up!!!

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    • I can hardly drag myself to any church right now…it has been that way for a few years now. But that doesn’t mean I’m “outside the will of God”. I believe He understands WELL my wariness and weariness and how much it means to me to stay home and worship with Him there. I have gone to a couple of services of late and there was nothing wrong with them at all. I felt like an observer. But I grow antsy towards the end of it and am ready to leave. I’m not sure what I’m looking for, to tell you the truth. The book you mentioned intrigues me though. I will check it out today and see if it might be something that will help clear some things up.

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      • Darla,
        How well I can relate to your feelings about going to a church service on Sundays! It seems that my most special times spent with the Lord are the times when I am able to just worship Him all by myself. In times when I have been in church services, I too find myself anxious to just get home!

        Having said that, I really appreciated Chris’ post about fellowshiping with other believers and totally agree with what she wrote. Is there anywhere in the Bible that suggests that “church” has to be an organized body of believers in the sense that we think of church with its structured format of worship? …I don’t think so.
        I’m wondering if maybe you might have a friend or two who would be willing to spend an informal hour with you on Sundays in your home or at the park or anyplace quiet? And if your purpose together with your friends is just to praise God for a short while, then, I’m sure whatever is offered (a hymn, a few verses, a prayer) will not only bring blessing but will be spiritually nurturing to you as well.

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        • Thanks Linda for your words. And yes, I have thought of gathering a couple of my friends on Sunday…but it never works out for them. It seems the weekends are times they really just want to be with their families and/or spouse because their weeks are so busy and full. I get that. I don’t have any single friends here and my one single friend whom I love dearly lives in Montana! I live in Oregon. A bit of a commute. But I haven’t prayed about that in a while so maybe I should again.

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        • Well, bummer! I guess since I’m sort of in the same boat as you, I’ll pray for both of us! However, we can always trust that the Lord sees our needs and will make provision in His own time and according to his own will. I also feel that breaking away from the meeting system usually is a very traumatic experience for most people, esp. for those born & raised in it. Often it takes years to heal the hurt and readjust to a new way of life & worship. I often have to remind myself that it was the Lord who drew me away from the meetings and if I can just be patient enough, He’ll eventually also provide full healing through his wondrous grace. In the meantime, I believe He fully accepts & blesses my feeble efforts to worship Him while not physically associated with a group of other Christians. However and nevertheless, we still belong to the worldwide universal church of believers and, by the unction of the Holy Spirit, are in true fellowship with them. That’s pretty awesome, isn’t it !

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  5. When the Holy Spirit indwells those who are born anew into Christ, one of the most special gifts He gradually gives is that of spiritual discernment, or the ability to know real truth from erroneous teaching. The Christian begins to understand His Word more clearly day by day. The Bible becomes a “new” book! And what becomes far more important than where we worship and how we worship is the receiving of true spiritual, Bible-based Christian doctrine. If the preaching of the Word is distorted & deceptive, then the beautiful fellowship, the lovely songs, and the form of things is all more than just a waste of time,

    It has helped me to learn and understand that religion is simply man’s attempts to reach God. And being ‘manmade’, it naturally is quite imperfect. Thus there never can be a “perfect” church and we can’t expect to ever find such a church or people.

    But Christianity is God’s attempts to reach man. It, being God-made, is perfect. He has established one door to righteousness and salvation, and that is only through His Son Jesus. The door is Jesus. He said, “I am the Life, the Truth, and the Way”. “No man comes to the Father except through Me.” But the simplicity of Jesus’ words is often difficult for man to accept. Men love to build religions which often cloud the basic doctrinal truths that Christ established. I feel our greatest need is to learn, understand, accept, and cling to the wise discernment that the Spirit is giving us.

    And if we are doing that, then we can EXPECT criticisms, scoffing, rejections, and misunderstandings from others. Standing for and with Christ is often very lonely. But what a privilege it is to not only be identified with our suffering Savior, but to be lifted up by our resurrected and victorious Savior!

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  6. It has been an interesting journey, leaving meetings and attending another church. I have to say, for some reason, I never compare what I have to what I left. I compare what I have with what I want in a church. I’m happy with my church exactly as it is. Hubby, on the other hand, constantly compares the new church to the fellowship. He especially misses the silence before the meetings, but I don’t: I love the buzz of happy fellowship. However, we both agree: our pastor is an amazing teacher and we’ve learned so much. I think God has given me the gift of being accepting of change so I can help my spouse who hates change. Also it helps that my church has a worship leader from a classic music background and we have no drums, electric guitars or loud music and he and the pastor are very concerned about the words we sing–making sure they are deep theological truths rather fluff. That, I suspect, has made all the difference in the world for me. And from what I’ve heard from others, I also suspect my easy transition is not the norm–and that makes me wonder sometimes if I’m just shallow.

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    • I don’t think your easy transition means you are shallow. It just sounds like you were more ready to leave than your husband was. You were ready for something new and different! I was too. So I get it.

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