Its 3:00 o’clock in the morning and am craving.
I must admit, I am one lazy lass. Do not take me too serious though, this is just but an excuse I use to hide away the fact that am an over thinker with a really short attention span and therefore jotting down my feelings seems like a toddler handling crayons for the first time. There will always be a beautiful mesh of non-agreeing patterns that seem appealing to an innocent eye. But if the same marks were to be examined by an actual art critic the disdain on their faces would probably explain how the beauty of art was being butchered in that 4-edged white space. Thus- my absence despite promising to drop the shades that I wear and show more of my intellectual skin around here. but it being Sunday, I guess we can start life afresh..
Last year I made one of the best decisions in my life. I stopped going to church. Yes, I said it. I said no to church. I remember that day like it was yesterday. One of the most memorable days of my life, but I can’t say I did not see it coming. You know it’s funny how at times we break our own hearts and blame other people for our downfalls… well, it was something like that… I was coming back from school in my then depressed state, and something triggered me to re-evaluate the reason behind me going to church. I thought of my past year in church- not in salvation, but in church. I attended church service late, mainly because the nearer I got to church the more my steps slowed or faltered because I didn’t want to get into a cage where I needed to be someone strong when deep down I was weak from all the emotional confrontations that I had been undergoing at the time. I felt like I was being unfair to God, with him being all good to me. What shocked me was that I realized I was merely attending church as a formality because even though am 22, my mother would still whoop my bum bums if she found me lazying around on Sunday instead of going to church.
I abandoned church because it stopped being a refuge for me, instead it became my prison. I was in shackles- caged because I needed to keep my appearances yet every Sunday was a thrash to my already battered back because I was forced to relive the horrors of my former life. I attended service even though I would go back home and cry myself to sleep. Well Sunday evenings are nap times, but for the better part of the end of last year, sleep was a luxury I could not afford. Let me not get started about the judgmental lot within our worship centers who always have something to say about your lifestyle. Mind you, the bible in itself warns against judging and condemning. But oh well, the society today has been known to interpret the bible in their own words to justify their deeds that may end up opening doors to hell for them. Okay, am getting a bit side-tracked- back to my story…
Anyone who knows me well enough knows just how impulsive I can get. A light bulb clicked inside of me. I was busy living a lie to please the masses who who expected a certain standard of life out of me that I forgot to take care of me. So in the midst of my realization, I reached out into my purse and texted my former pastor’s wife and let her know I was heading down a new path that the Spirit would lead me to, as long as it was far away from the church. It wasn’t a long conversation really. It probably didn’t come as a shock to anyone after all. Life happens.
And that, is a short story of how I began my life out of church. It felt nice for a while to stop living a lie. Pretending is never easy especially when you are doing it in front of people who probably have already seen your flaws in the spiritual realm and are waiting for you to confess and get an atonement for your sins yet to you nothing seems out of place. It felt good to be free. Felt good to make a few wrong decisions without having to explain myself to anyone, until I had to explain myself to myself. Its never that easy, especially when you are a believer in the existence of a higher deity to whom you are answerable. If the shame doesn’t consume you, then the guilt will lead you to your redemption. And thus, my cravings for church at 3:00 o’clock in the morning.
So earlier in the year my mama popped the big question- ‘Did you find a church to attend?’ Again. Church for who? (At this point I guess I am tempted to roll my eyes, but we don’t do that over here. Not in an African home. Not near my mother). I knew my answer wasn’t yes just yet. I went with the typical am working on it speech. I wasn’t ready for the big house with a stormy dark cloud hovering over it. I wasn’t ready to put myself back into a systematized life that would dictate my sleeping hours, praying hours or eating hours. I wasn’t ready for a life where I Would be shunned if I didn’t meet the demands and instructions jotted down for me. I felt like God was misrepresented and I simply needed to understand Him on a personal level in order to tame my rebellious and overthinking nature that simply questioned everything and thus always landed me in problems with spiritual authority.
I never ran out of reasons why I needed to step back but this topped them all. Life battles are hard to explain to ordained men of God who will never chase after you to worship Him in truth and in spirit through all the turmoils. The level of perfection expected from you can be emotionally damaging. I think majority of the millennials today run away from church because the church in itself is loosing empathy. We are not only fighting among ourselves within our religions and our churches, but we are fighting against the freedom of expression within the church. Well, I guess my mentality on this shifted a bit earlier this year when I had a sit down with my Bishop, not for the atonement of my sins but just a father daughter conversation on how far life had regressed. And those are the moments I wish to see more in church, where I can sit and talk and not have 13 verses thrown in my face as to why I made a grave error in my judgement. That is the church I long for. That was my turning point I guess; when I felt like I was more of a daughter than a sinner, I yearned to return home. Talk of the prodigal son. Only that this one didn’t squander any material inheritance.
Do not get my words twisted, church is amazing. I love worship, I love it when am broken enough for God to minister through me. I only feel that, for me, it is paramount to actually establish a relationship with God within the church setting. If that chance for growth is not offered then pardon me, but I have to ask again, Church for who. There needs to be an actual ground for one to feel loved for the sanctuary to be worthy of attendance. Otherwise all it becomes is a Holy ground with self-righteous folks who do not realize that their actions wreck hearts and drive people from the physical structure. If it is not nurtured into a place of understanding, it becomes a ground for unjustified accusations and malicious acts among members of the church who will smile at your face and deliver sermons on the pulpit but plot your down fall the moment you turn your back to them.
Anyway, my endorsements aside…
I think i’m ready for church now though… The above excuses just a tip of the ice berg of the millions of reasons I have given myself in the past year as to why I need to hold back .Do not get me started on the need to play hush hush in order not to offend communities that constantly seek for politically correct dialogues that suit their needs and infringe on the convenience of other parties, or how my perception on the so called saved relatives who saw no good coming out of me almost influenced my decision to run away from my destiny. That is all a past, am now emptying those bags of excuses and taking a step in making sure that the church I want is the same church I am offering to anyone who has an encounter with me. The church shouldn’t necessarily confine our good deeds to the sanctuary. It can extent to our individual relationships with people who look up to us as role models, friends and family. The sanctuary may still have cracks that need repairing, but this temple is ready to begin a journey on its own and be the church.
Sigh- Church is love. I am craving love
Some nights such as tonight I sit upright in my bed and hope for a miracle from heaven that will somehow shift the paradigm of our perception of the church or the roles we play in making the church look bad. but wishing is never enough. the first step is acting right being kind and loving without expecting anything in return. Living a life that can breflect our true selves and giving a listening ear to a brother. Church is never a lot to ask. Church is love. I am ready for church.