I was kept awake last night with fear of doing this – fear of losing friends because I’ll say the wrong thing, fear of disappointing or failing God, fear of judgment (or even punishment) from others and God. I almost called it off. But, while I don’t want to lose friends or hurt people, fear is what I’ve done most things out of my whole life and it’s not served me well at all. So…onward. As I’ve said, I’ve been underwhelmed – untouched, unmoved, uninspired – by Scripture for most of my life and these last two years have not helped. Our culture has a deplorable way of treating victims and the Church is, in my experience, no better. Let me first say that I have had a best friend who has been there through this with me and her advice, prayers, ability to listen to me process this over and over has been God’s saving grace to me. She has been one of the few people in this situation that has respected me enough to be honest and loyal enough to believe *I* was being honest. After being lied to for a number of years, betrayed by several very close people in my life and then blamed for attempting to blow up the church, my husband and I had to abruptly leave said church, the place we met, attended for six years and married. This was four months after our wedding. We had some rocky times ourselves after that but even after recovering, we still struggle to find a new church.
Do you know how exhausting it is to be new? Especially in a city that’s okay at being friendly but kind of awful at being friends? This is the land where most versions of “sure I’d love to hang out” mean “I want you to think I’m a nice person, but really, I don’t have any intention of following through” and/or “I don’t know how to be direct and clear and don’t know how to say no.” We’ve visited some positively lovely churches, really. It’s just that…well, among other things (some churches are really not that great at hospitality and it’s also really hard to know who’s being sincere and who’s being “Christian”), the feeling that I just don’t fit in at Church (which isn’t unique to Church, let’s be fair) hasn’t even lessened. Could it be my 19 piercings and four tattoos? Probably not in this town. Maybe it’s my utter dissatisfaction with flimsy, easy theology. Yes, I DO get offended when people think “ask and you shall receive” is about a new car. My husband’s mother died of cancer when he was 13 after an 11-year fight (for the folks at home, that means he has ZERO memories of his mother healthy) and multiple, cruelly hopeful “remissions”: you think she didn’t ask God to see her kids (my husband has an older brother and a younger brother) grow up? I have yet to hear a satisfactory answer to why the “door was NOT opened” for her on that one.
Maybe it’s because I do things that seem “judgmental” like expect apologies from people who hurt me, or like I’m “keeping a record of wrongs” when I am hurt by people who say they want to hang out and then can’t be bothered to follow up, or like I “just haven’t forgiven” when, after two years, I’m still questioning why I should trust any Christian in authority at any Church or institution. There doesn’t seem to be room here to call a spade a spade, or use words like “right” and “wrong” in a culture so fixated on what is construed as “not judging.” Maybe I don’t fit in because, when I feel safe enough, I might actually just start to ask questions, I might just start to get a little realer than “how’s the weather” with folks, I might just not back down from a conflict (and get hurt when others so easily walk away), I might wonder, out loud, why what we say doesn’t match up with what we do.
Maybe I don’t fit in because I honestly can’t see the point of playing at church when we’ve got over 3,000 people sleeping outside in my county every night while the new housing being built all over the city is going for $2,000 a month for a one bedroom and there’s a ban on rent control, unarmed black youth dying in the streets and their murderers not even getting indicted for it while the cries for justice are mocked by a police state powerful enough to ignore you and surveil you at the same time, stateless corporation gobbling wages, patent-worthy knowledge and labor indiscriminately and without remorse, a natural world being disregarded, abused and pillaged for our mindlessly insane modern lifestyle and people sharing pictures of CATS online back and forth and calling it “connection” while the few people (mostly not in the Church) who are standing up for a way of life that is not actually suicide get called terrorists and put in jail. I am angry and sick with anxiety about what will be left for me and my generation’s children on this planet, what the hell I should do with my life (while being inundated with everyone else’s awesomeness and accomplishments on social media) and am finding no substantial answers in the Church. And no, I’m sorry, but “Jesus” – the vapid Sunday School answer, not the Person – is not good enough. Maybe THAT’S why I don’t fit in at church.
Or maybe it’s because I’m still mad and hurt from my church experience (I’m aware I’m not the first person in history to be shredded by the Church and frustratingly enough, won’t be the last, especially since my situation was not taken seriously enough to have anything change at my old one so far as I know). I’m not sure why, but I thought seminary would bring me some healing from the isolation of being a victim in a victim-blaming world, the thrash of my new marriage and the increasingly heavy backpack filled with “no one likes me” junk I’ve been lugging for as long as I can remember. I’ll suffice it to say what seminary gave me was not what was recognizable to me as healing. It wouldn’t be honest to say that it was ALL horrible – I did meet some amazing people who I’m honestly stunned would consider me their friend, but it’s still hard losing what I thought was a really close, committed friend because of my decision to go to seminary and all the other experiences I had at seminary. And anyway, the healing I sought before I still need – now compounded by the misunderstanding, neglect, lack of follow through and insensitive treatment at seminary.