Shall I begin with what I consider a major parenting failure on my part? Sure, why not...
Thursday afternoon while making our daily trek home from after-school pickup, sharing all of our day’s successes and challenges, my five year old posed the question that landed like a bowling ball in my gut: “Mommy, when can we go to church again?”
(Insert drooping shoulders, sagging head and deep exhale. I..suck.)
We’ve done our share of visiting churches over the years, to the extent that we could read instant opinion in each other’s faces upon the start of service. Don’t get me wrong…we’ve not entirely lived our lives as religious nomads. We were fortunate to find a wonderful church shortly after we were married where we spent four wonderful years. We became involved in a life group and for the first time in my life I had a true church family…an extended community. Shortly thereafter the church literally began to crumble before our eyes. A new pastor came on board and significant changes were made to praise and worship. After a few emotionally charged meetings, elders began to leave and before we knew it we were sitting in a church we knew nothing about. Our community disintegrated and once again we had no direction.
Fast forward a few years and MANY church visits later, we were fortunate enough to find the perfect fit. Again. The church was large enough that the programs and services were plentiful, yet small enough that we saw familiar faces every visit. After three years of membership the church made a major change in governance, took an entirely different direction in doctrine, we lost two pastors and here we are. Add to that, our recent move to a town 45 minutes away and you’ve got several sporadic weeks of our butts still in bed at 8am on Sunday morning.
Why is this so difficult for us? Despite what I feel is a genuine desire to find a church home, an extended family and community, the search for said church presents itself as such a chore. We have only good things to reap from finding a place to settle in and call home. Am I a commitment-phobe? An 11 year marriage with three children would suggest that is not likely the case. But maybe I am. Is it like moving on to a new relationship after having been hurt? Is there an abandonment issue here? That just makes me a victim which I can’t swallow. I am a hard-ass that has no problem taking the bull by the horns in every other aspect of my life…why such a back seat driver here?
Today the search began. Again.
We visited a wonderfully pleasant church much closer to our home. We entered to find hundreds of attendees gleefully bustling about with coffee in hand, greeting, laughing and scurrying to get children to class and into the worship center. We were impressed with the organization of the children’s education program and with great ease left our children in their hands and quickly redirected to the service. As we approached the auditorium we heard it. The drums. The guitar. As we entered and saw the full band, complete with flashing colorful stage lights (but the website said it was a “Traditional Service”!) the gentleman and I locked eyes just as the doors were closing behind us.
RUN! Wait…open mind. Let’s just see…
We stood through 15 minutes of music, none of which we were familiar, followed by 10 minute video of the wonders of God’s creation. (Mountains, oceans, canyons, as if I needed convincing of God’s existence…you get the point. 25 minutes I won’t get back.) I believe I may have sighed just slightly too loud when the gentleman glanced my way…and the look in his eyes said “Yes Dear it WOULD be inappropriate if we left now and snuck back in to get the kids at the end of service.” (I never claimed to be good at this…see epic fail admission above.) Fast forward to a decent and surprisingly conservative sermon and the glorious closing song. (Grab coat and purse and run without making eye contact. Now WHERE were those classrooms??) I felt confident that I could call this a solid college try…right? I mean, I’m sure the kids found it awkward too…all is well that ends well. And then…we picked up the kids: “MOMMY I LOVE THIS CHURCH!!!”
Crap. Of course they do.
Herein lies the dilemma. We are now including our children in the search...and while their opinion is certainly important, should it be the sole factor? Are we hung up on style and not seeing the big picture? OR is it a legitimate concern that may hinder our ability to plug in and connect with the message on a weekly basis? This is not a moral dilemma…no concern that this church’s delivery is wrong or un-Biblical. I just. Don’t. Like it. Is that a good enough reason to not go back to a church my children loved? I don’t know.
So here I sit wondering if it is acceptable to make such a snap-judgment with this type of decision. Should decisions on religion and church membership BE open-minded or does that defeat the basis of having a defined belief system to begin with? Why do I feel as though I’m surrounded by families who seem to have all of the answers and never doubt their church involvement and commitment? This is not a topic that arises often with my friends…not a convo I would naturally initiate over a trip to Starbucks. And so I find myself feeling isolated with a lot of guilt and shame. Not simply guilt that I’m not attending regularly…participation should be driven by desire not guilt (as a great friend eloquently explained to me). Guilt...that my children are missing out on something they are quite aware that they desire too. Without speaking, my ever-so-grown-up daughter's face wails "pull up your big-girl pants, Mommy, and lead the way."
You're right. I will. I can’t give up on this one…my gut can’t take anymore bowling balls.