I didn’t go to church yesterday.
I didn’t go last week either, or the week before that (but that one was probably cancelled because of snow and ice anyways).
I wish that I could. I wish that I could walk into a church building — any church building — and feel ok.
I wish that I did not go to sleep on Saturday nights dreading the next morning, wake up Sunday mornings dreading the part where I blearily drink coffee, tell the kids to get dressed, drive 25 minutes, small talk in the lobby — how are you? i’m not fine, but i’m here — drink more coffee, and then sing songs I don’t believe published by church corporations I don’t trust, listen to someone read from a book that has been used to cause irreparable harm to me and everyone I care about, listen as all the religious words slip out of focus, they become a blur and I feel my consciousness retreating deeper and deeper into my flesh prison, trying to escape this place that was supposed to be home.
Even in a decent church, I do not feel ok. Surrounded by people who love me, I feel alone. It’s not you, it’s me. It’s me and all the shame and abuse and religious bullshit tied like a millstone around my neck many years ago.
I wish that I could receive the bread and wine as the Body and Blood of the Divine and feel something. I wish that church was someplace where the weight on my shoulders felt a little bit lighter for a few hours. Instead, church feels like a problem to be solved, a knife in my lungs, a wilderness with no horizon.
I cannot sing with a millstone tied around my neck.
I have written many times about the church, about the ways it has failed us, the ways it has lied to us, the ways it has betrayed us. And still I have hung on by my fingernails, clung to that which has hurt me, forced my body to walk itself through those doors over and over and over again.
You have asked me again and again why I keep going. (Why do you seek the living in a place of death?) I don’t have a good answer.
Perhaps it is because I still believe in all the marketing, the promises of safety and community and transcendence. Perhaps it is because church is all I’ve ever known; I wouldn’t know what to do on a Sunday morning without it. Perhaps I have stayed this long because I didn’t know I was allowed to leave.
Perhaps I have come back to church again and again because I still hope there’s a place on this earth where I can take off my mask and catch some faint glimpse of the Divine.
During Lent, we give up.
Coffee, social media, whiskey. Pick your poison and don’t pick it up again till Easter. Take a break. Walk away.
Church has been my poison. Church makes my body feel awful. Church makes my soul feel very far away from God. Still, I return again and again, keep hoping that this time it will be different, keep hoping to find God there.
I’m giving up.
For Lent. For a change. For the good of my own soul.
I don’t know if I’ll be back.
Like Jesus on the first Easter, you won’t find me where I’m supposed to be when Sunday rolls around.
Maybe I’ll be standing under a tree in a garden somewhere.
Maybe I’ll be unwrapping the grave clothes that have bound me for so long.
Maybe, (oh I wish!) maybe I will be alive.
published March 25, 2019
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