I grew up in the Church. It was integral to who I was. It was my family. It defined my identify. It was a powerful influence, my moral development, social opportunities, entertainment, and an invitation to regular fellowship.
Church had been my routine and security. A part of my family history and traditions. Somewhere I belonged. A place where others depended on me. A way to love others. A solidifying of my status in the Christian community. A place to connect with others and restore my spiritual focus.
Until my marriage ended. Then I didn’t really fit in, and church became complicated.
Regardless of how much my body shook from the traumas I’d encountered, I still marched through the church doors, week to week.
Regardless of how hard it was to keep the tears from rolling down my cheeks during worship, I returned dutifully to ‘my’ seat in the pews and sang while gulping down the lump in my throat.
Regardless of the pain of mingling with people who were probably talking about my scandalous life events, I still socialised with them to fend off some of the loneliness.
Regardless of the isolation I felt after sharing my prayer needs with leaders who found my circumstances awkward, I still made myself vulnerable and left feeling embarrassed.
Regardless of the exhaustion of working full time, caring for children and pursuing divorce proceedings, I continued to serve so that I did not have to admit my limitations.
Regardless of the ignorant one-liners that reopened my wounds, such as ‘God hates divorce’, ‘you’ll find someone else’, ‘God will prosper you’, ‘things could be worse’…I allowed my ears continued exposure.
Regardless of the devastation of not feeling heard or important, when I addressed the messages that had threatened my wellbeing, I kept advocating, and became further estranged.
It was pure stubbornness that kept me hostage to my church habit, despite how at times, extremely detrimental it was.
Then I underwent a season of rest, reflection, and re-construction.
I first gave myself permission to acknowledge that church had been hard. That many times I did not like it. That it was okay not to go if I was not up to it.
Then I discovered something…new.
‘Me Church’ was just me and Jesus.
At ‘Me Church’, I could come as I was. Slippers, dressing gown, messy hair and all. It had amazing worship. Personal playlists, set on repeat. There were cups of tea and flexible start and end times. ‘Me Church’ had various campuses, in a range of indoor and outdoor venues. I could sing my heart out in joy, or sit silently in tears.
‘Me Church’ did not require interaction with other flawed, sinful humans, which at that point in my life, was just too risky. There was silence, reflection, time for thinking, and staring out at God’s amazing creation. There could be bible reading, YouTube sermons or podcast discussions…or no teaching at all. There was space for a private conversation with God, including how let down I felt by life in general, or how beautiful the sunshine was.
After ‘Me Church’ there was opportunity to bless others, whether that was checking in and calling a friend, doing a nice deed for the family, or preparing for the working week ahead so I was better able to bless others in the community with my gifts. ‘Me Church’ was not concerned with the denomination I followed, whether I had spiritual gifts, the evangelical celebrities I ascribed to, or my stance on moral and political agendas. There was no power hierarchy, shame, guilt trips or abuse.
At ‘Me Church’, you could share your personal testimony, even if it didn’t have a happy ending…or any kind of resolution at all.
There were no expectations and no awkwardness. It was safe and it was healing. It was genuine and it was real. Despite my imperfect, single, state, at ‘Me Church’, I fit in, and I belonged.
I could be a member for as long as I wanted to. I could leave when I was ready. I would be welcomed when I returned.
If ‘We Church’ has been a complicated place for you too, let go of it for a while, and try ‘Me Church’ out for a season as well.
Even if no one else is there, Jesus certainly will be.