Monday, February 20, 2012

Beyond Imagining: Quitting Church (Pt 2)

If you are just now finding this series, please jump back and read Part 1, Beyond Imagining: When God is Late(r).

This is the story of our year where I chronicle our journey through unemployment, a few of our detours along the way,  and the faithfulness of a good God that is beyond imagining.

It was about this time Robb quit attending church. His timing couldn't have been worse. I had just completed my service on the pastoral search committee and our new pastor soon moved a couple country blocks from our house. Robb helped move them in but was curiously missing on Sundays.

Emotionally, this was a bigger blow to me than our financial situation. I felt kicked in the kidney when I was already down for the count. What next? Irrational fears plagued me, and there was more conflict in our marriage over this issue than I can recall for years.

I felt conspicuous, sitting alone in church. The only time I had ever experienced this before was when Robb was engrossed in church service, running the whole show. I feared what conclusions were being jumped to by those sitting behind and around me. This wasn't who I ever wanted to be, the lone parent taking her kids to church. The first Sunday going alone, I sobbed on an elder's shoulder.

The truth was, Robb's heart could not feel or hear God at church. He loved the people, and did not avoid the community as a whole, but stayed home on Sundays to study on his own. He read church history, researching the early church and asking questions. How did the early church function? What is a believer's purpose within it? How do I apply that to the modern church, and what does that ideally look like? Does the corporate church even value what I have to offer?

He pondered his previous service within the church and his subsequent break from any type of church leadership. Our church had just experienced a tumultuous year, and as one of  those who laid the foundation of the organization, he wondered if he was in some way responsible. It was a productive time for him, even as I reluctantly traipsed the rest of the family to church alone. I felt a spiritual division between us, and though I knew my husband was seeking God and hearing Him, I still felt uneasy.
We tried attending a different church together. We stayed home a few weeks to watch online sermons as a family.  We argued points on the definitions of organic church and corporate church. We thought about the benefits of regularly attending church, as opposed to the pain we have seen church politics and its people cause. We discussed the correlation between service and how connected and valued one feels to the community. Around in circles we talked, never getting anywhere.

It didn't take long and the stress of our financial situation and the emotional anxiety I felt about our church conflict began to take its toll on me physically. I had plenty of reasons to be struggling with anxiety, but I soon discovered another cause. My  hypothyroidism was being over-corrected, adding to or causing my symptoms, we are still not sure. I was jittery, tense, often dizzy, emotional.

I cried out (sobbing) to the Lord many times, Lord. It's too much. I can't take any more. I know there are people facing much worse, but I am weak. I don't like this situation. My body doesn't like this stress. I'm tired. Haven't I been through enough?

I pleaded with God to DO something. Fix it.

Finally, I broke down one evening in front of Robb and our girls.

Robb returned to Living Rock the following Sunday, at first for the emotional benefit of me and our kids. Even as he continued to sort out his feelings about church, his presence with me on Sundays was comforting.

We were still waiting for leads on the job front, and were facing many unknowns, but I began to feel more was right with my world.

No matter our philosophizing about an ideal community of believers, Living Rock is OUR family, one we helped create, and invested deeply for years. We realize there are many amazing churches not a great distance away, but there is something so practical about attending a local church; community happens best when its participants are not spread far and wide geographically. In addition, meeting weekly, at a set time, in a set place, adds valuable stability and structure to a body of believers.

There are many books on this topic from varying viewpoints. We have read some of them.
But to be honest, we never came to a complete resolution. We didn't find perfect answers to our questions.

We do know this: the people of Living Rock Church make it our home.


Next week - Beyond Imagining: Remember the Deer (Pt 3)

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