I have this memory, both hazy and distinct at the same time, about a conversation. I remember that I was in middle school, but I’m not sure if it was 7th or 8th grade. I remember the girl I spoke to, but I cannot remember her name. I know she had brown hair, and we were friends at the time of the conversation, but we did not stay friends for very long.
The conversation took place in gym class; the girl and I were walking around the track together. We were planning a sleepover that she wanted to have on Saturday night, and I told her we would need to do Friday because I went to church with my family on Sunday mornings.
“Why do you go to church?” she asked.
She didn’t say it rudely, just curious. It was a simple question.
I responded with something to the effect of, I’ve always gone, my family goes every week, I like it there because I love gospel music and the choir is fantastic.
“Sounds boring to me,” the girl replied, and the conversation shifted to another topic.
I realize I had to have been 12 or 13 at the time, so I can’t fault myself for not having a better answer, but thinking back on this memory, I’m upset that I missed my chance to share the word of God with someone.
This was a girl who had never been to church, her family did not have any religious practices or beliefs, and I was probably one of the first people she asked about it, and all I told her about was the music.
I didn’t realize it then, but about 3 years ago when I stopped going to church with my family, this is the moment that really stuck out to me when I thought about why I was going to church and realized that I was just going through the motions. I stood when everyone else did, clapped when everyone else did, but I didn’t really listen to the message. I didn’t connect and didn’t really hear the message, but I also wasn’t trying to. I sang in the choir, not to praise God with song, but because I had been doing it forever, I liked to sing, and I wanted people to hear me.
Once I realized this, I started really trying to pay attention, and I really struggled with it, so then one day I stopped going.
I want to note that my not going to church had absolutely nothing to do with any lack of belief in God, it was just that I didn’t feel I was being spiritually fed at that particular church.
Then I faced the new problem of finding a new church home, and I was so comfortable with the location and layout of my current church, and the comfort of going with my family every Sunday for my entire life, that I could not fathom the idea of going alone somewhere else. It felt uncomfortable, it felt wrong.
So I got really busy with school and clubs while I lived on campus, trying to create excuses not to find a church home. I went abroad to Europe, and then off to California, constantly telling myself that I needed to get accustomed to the new place before I could find a church home, but then I ended up not staying in that place long enough.
To help improve a committee at my old church, my mom is visiting other churches to learn about their process for welcoming new members, and see what resources are provided to them.
I’ve been going with my mom to these other churches so far, looking for a new home to call my own, and I’m happy to say I have attended some services that I have really connected to, where I felt I really understood and was really hearing the pastor.
I haven’t gone alone yet, but I am hoping to get the courage to do that soon.
I had lunch with a family friend about a week ago, and she asked me why I’m afraid to go alone. I really couldn’t articulate it to her, and she told me that our spiritual journeys are our own. We each have an individual relationship with God, so what difference should it make if I drive to church alone, sit on my own, and return on my own, if it is my own relationship with God that I am trying to nurture?
I’m really not sure why I wasn’t seeing that before, but having this conversation really helped me, and I am feeling a lot better with the idea of going alone, so I hope to put that into practice in the coming months.
I have been keeping up with my daily scripture readings and my daily prayer, and asking God for strength to overcome my fear, even if I cannot specifically articulate what makes me afraid of not having a “church buddy” so to speak.
I guess my point of this post is, if you’re worried to do something alone, try to talk through with someone why that is. We don’t always get to do things with somebody else. And if you’re struggling to connect in your church service, try a different church. Change is okay. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you, maybe you just need a different type of speaker. Pastors all structure their sermons differently and have different methods of delivery, and you need to find what works for you so that you can be spiritually fed during your service.