Church, Leaving, Wandering…

I’ve read a lot of thought pieces recently on why young adults are leaving the institutional church. Often millennials are blamed (as is the case for most things these days, but that’s another blog.. another day). Those in the church keep asking “Why?”, keep pontificating about it. Keep wondering what’s wrong with these people leaving? Where did they lose their faith? They are weak perhaps and caved to the world? This is a subject that hits me closely because I fall into the “left the church camp”. Even saying that doesn’t seem true though. I haven’t left Jesus, so I’m still a part of the church, right? Maybe not to some people, I guess.  But anyway, we get talked about a lot. We get talked over. We get op-eded about again and again. But if you really would like to know, I’d say there is a simple way to figure us out.

Ask us.

Be prepared, though.

Sometimes I wish they’d find someone with a bit more emotional distance to give these lectures, someone who doesn’t have to break herself open and bleed all over the place every time someone asks, innocently enough, “So where have you been going to church these days?”                          ~Rachel Held Evans

You may be in for a shock to the system. When you ask some of us you may get a story. You may see tears. You may hear injury. You may get anger. You may hear heartbreak. You may feel fire. You may find beauty. You may hear resurrection, redemption. You may see rising.

Are you afraid to know? Afraid of what might have to change? What might be birthing in them, in you?

We were too. We are too.

We’re still sorting it all out. And we might be doing that for awhile. Be patient. Some of us have left for good. Some of us are on a sabbatical. Some of us are in the business of reinventing. Some of us have just started. Some of us have been free in the wilderness for awhile now.

I can’t speak for all, but I can speak for me.

I’ve not been directly injured by the church. My wandering began when I realized I didn’t know the Jesus of the church. I was young. I was steeped in Christian culture. But I didn’t know Jesus. As I stepped into the scary vastness outside.. I was first angry. Angry at how the church treats certain humans, image bearers. I still carry some of that anger with me. I was cynical. Cynical of institutional church that didn’t show love as often as it shows judgement. And I still feel and speak that sometimes. Something stuck with me though. She was constantly tapping at my soul. Holy Spirit moving. In a prior post I wrote about how running changed me. I found Jesus as foot fell on pavement. I let my pain and anger flow freely. I yelled at God. I let my doubts and questions surface. I let fear go. I pleaded for peace. What I’ve learned is freedom. In the wilderness.

Lean into your questions and your doubts until you find that God is out here in the wilderness too. ~Sarah Bessey

Some call this a slippery slope. What I’ve found is God is so much bigger, so much wilder then I thought. He’s there when we’re falling headlong down that slope.. he’s there at the bottom too. He’s not afraid of us, of our fears, of our anger. He can hold all of that too.

How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved. ~Sigmund Freud

I’ve found that the wilderness with  Jesus is a holy land. I am loved. I am enough. He is enough. Someday I may find my way back to institutional church. For now, here I am. I am a broken, doubting, questioning woman. I am a strong, rising, and loved woman. I’ve always had a rebellious slant, I’ve found Jesus to be a beautiful rebel.

Be patient. Listen. You may not fully understand. You may be left with more questions than started with. The answers being sought may be found in the questioning.

Peace to you,

A rebel, lover of Jesus

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