A taste of life

It’s been a while. And it’s amazing I’m finding time, even now, to write anything on here. My workload this semester with school has been intense, not to mention the stress of my job and certain personal issues in my life, so I doubt I’ll be contributing much on here over the next few months.

But I thought I’d share something quickly that happened to me the other day. Something that gave me a taste–just a taste–of what the author of this blog post shared in his reasons for leaving the institutional church and instead joining a more organic expression of church. I will preface what I’m going to share first by saying I’m thinking of leaving this thing called the “institutional church” as well. I’m just so sick and tired of the superficiality, the ritual, the deadness, the lack of real community, the social club atmosphere…pretty much most of what the author of the aforementioned blog post said. I’m just so disillusioned right now and consequently no longer regularly attend church services.

However, in an effort to find some sort of spiritual community, I recently started attending a small group unaffiliated with any particular church, and geared toward people seeking emotional and relational healing. I wasn’t too impressed at first, even though the people I met were welcoming and friendly. To be honest, I thought at first it just seemed like a navel-gazing session, where everyone rehashed all their child-hood traumas for the umpteenth time. But, because the people were nice, I decided to go back. Well, this past Wednesday evening, as I sat in this brightly-lit room in a basement, surrounded by only four other women, I just spilled some of the things I’ve been struggling with, and instead of the condemnation and judgment I expected, all four women decided to spend some time praying for me. Me, and only me. I protested at first, but they insisted, so I let them pray for me, and afterwards the leader of the group said she felt God wanted her to hug me, because I needed it. So I let this woman hug me, and as she did so, something in me just broke. I sobbed. Hard. Tears of pent up frustration, of loneliness, of despair, of pain, of every negative feeling that has been oppressing me for so long, fell on that woman’s shoulder as she held me close. And as she held me, I felt, in a way, that God Himself was hugging me. Letting me know He understood. That He really did care. That He loved me, despite my brokenness. It was a powerful, cathartic few minutes, and after this woman let me go, the other women took turns hugging me as well, while speaking words of encouragement over me.

When I left that meeting, I felt so much lighter than when I went in. And I felt I had experienced, for the first time in a very long time, a taste of what the Body of Christ is supposed to look like. What the true church ought to look like. People ministering to each other. People being real with each other. A place where the broken, the lame, and the sick can come, just as they are, and be made whole. A place where plastic smiles and superficial spirituality are not allowed. A place where the love of Jesus is not just talked about, but actually seen and experienced. A place where rivers of life flow, in place of stagnant pools of dead doctrine and dogma.

I think it’s sad that most of my experiences of this type have been found outside an institutional church. And apparently I continue to find these pockets of life outside the four walls of a church. But I’ll take what I can get. For however long it lasts. If I must go outside of “church” to find church–real church, that is–then so be it.

I think I’ve had enough of the institutional church. But the other night gave me hope. Hope that not all is lost, and that perhaps, as far away as God feels most of the time to me, He is closer than I think, and just waiting to hold my broken, fragile self close to His heart.

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8 thoughts on “A taste of life

  1. This makes me think a bit of wanting to give up on all men, if every individual man you’ve met has treated you poorly. Bear with me, April (and of course you know I’m not directing the commentary towards your experiences with men: it’s a general “you”). The reason I think of that example, is that the state of churches in America is so individualistic—or, to be more precise, parishional or congregational, each a solitary “local church” within the entirety of Christendom, just as each man is a solitary man in the entirety of mankind. And, just the same as well, there will be follies and evils that different parishes, as with different men, have in whatever degrees. And their dogma or their doctrines will vary or be understood in different ways as well, even among churches than nominally fit this denomination or that, just as individual men’s convictions vary.

    I think you understand that my sympathies rest well with what you’ve written here in the Valley of Achor, so I hope it doesn’t upset you that I being so bold as to advise a bit of caution over what seems to have been a little bit of an enthusiastic or cathartic experience for you. I think that it is almost certainly better to be outside the church (with a lowercase ‘c’) than in one that is abusive or treacherous. But consider the risks.

    In my wanderings the last two years or so in the religious blogosphere, I have seen two reasons above all others for people who left church and chose to write about it in their blogs and whatnot: they were abused, or they disagreed with some doctrine or other (seems homosexuality and female pastors are the big ones). Odd enough, those who leave outright abuse usually wind up with a reinvention of doctrine as well. The danger is that, even if you leave really bad teachings or outright abuse, if you just go where the feelings lead you or try to find a church with doctrines you like right away, what you find may not really be all that Christian. Christ didn’t found a Church that was just a vague association of people who are nice to each other and make one another feel good. It’s probably better, of course, to be in the company of that kind of people than trapped in a cult or surrounded by a bunch of frauds, but it might ultimately reveal itself to be just as pernicious in the eternal scheme.

    Anyway, as always, you have my warmest best wishes for your journey. I hope what you find is good—and whom you find as well. And, of course, I continue to hope that other issues you have written about in recent posts work out happily too.

    • Virgil, I truly appreciate your words of wisdom and kindly given advice. What you’ve said doesn’t upset me in the slightest, and I know you only speak frankly because that’s what a true brother in Christ would do. I appreciate frankness far more than flattery.

      I readily agree with your point that my attitude probably comes across similar to an ill-treated woman who’s decided all men are evil. And I realize sometimes I do tend to think in such a black-and-white way because so many of my experiences in life have been negative (with the church, mainly, but also in other areas as well). So I appreciate your words of caution. However, I do want to assure you my eyes are wide open and I titled this post “A taste of life” for that very reason. By using the metaphor of “taste,” I’m keeping in mind that just because I had one wonderful experience, does not necessarily mean that experience will continue. In fact, I would not be surprised if it doesn’t. Which is why I pointed out “I will take whatever I can get, however long it lasts” toward the end of my post. I know feelings can be deceptive, and I certainly don’t intend to merely follow my feelings.

      But, on the whole, my issues with the institutional church stand, and I know I am not alone in feeling a lot of disillusionment in that regard. And when I say I feel like leaving this version of the church, that’s exactly what I mean–not the actual Church which is the Body of Christ. I could go on and on in regards to this subject, but I might as well write another post, in that case. 🙂

      But thank you again for your kindly-given nuggets of wisdom, which I will definitely keep in mind.

  2. April,
    I saw your earlier post today. I just want you to know. It’s okay to vent. I’m sorry your hurting right now and feeling weary of life. I understand that feeling. Life can throw ridiculously painful blows that just crush and destroy. I’m wishing you comfort and to know that no one has to be perfect to be loved–something I myself am trying to know.
    -Rachel

    • Thank you, Rachel. Your kind words mean a lot. And I know you can relate (though I wish, for your sake, that you didn’t). I took the post down because I’m beginning to realize there are other places where it might be wiser to vent some of my feelings & frustrations than in this public space. Blessings to you as always…I hope you are well. 🙂

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