Saturday day night Shawn and I sat down to watch Dallas Buyers Club (fantastic, by the way), which is a movie starring Matthew McConaughey about the true story of Ron Woodruff, a man who finds out he has AIDS and the decisions he makes with his life after he learns this news. Co-starring in the film is Jared Leto who plays a drug addict transvestite named Rayon, also diagnosed with AIDS, who becomes Ron’s business parter. As we watched the movie, I found myself completely drawn to Rayon, not only to his character, but his person, his story and his being. Having been completely rejected by his family for his lifestyle, he’s searching for love and acceptance. Ray is confident, warm and caring, all I could think about was how much I wanted to hug him. Also, if Jared Leto doesn’t win an Oscar for this performance, I quit everything.
Sunday morning, I woke up, anxious and unsettled. I knew what was coming, it had been building in my spirit for quite some time now but I hadn’t quite been able to identify it. Shawn had already gone downstairs, so I went into our bathroom to start getting ready for church. I did my hair, I did my make up, my usual routine and the more minutes that passed, the more shaken and upset I felt. I went downstairs and my husband could immediately sense a disturbance in the force. “Talk to me,” he insisted.
I sat down on the couch, while he sat in front of me on the floor, watching, waiting for the volcano that was so evidently about to erupt. I looked at him and broke. Tears for days. “I don’t exactly know how to say this, but, I think…I’m sick of church.” He didn’t bat an eye, just simply asked me to go on explaining. “Am I even allowed to say that?” I explained to him how I’d been feeling the Holy Spirit break down and work on some things in my heart for the past several months, I just didn’t exactly know what He was doing.
Let me fill you in a little on my relationship with church growing up. For one, I grew up in the midwest. Church is just what you do, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I also grew up with parents who were either on a church staff or heavily involved in church ministry always. Always. Again, church is just what we did and I never really thought twice about it.
Over the last few years, my relationship with church has gone on quite the roller coaster ride. There is a lot of guilt associated with church, wouldn’t you know it. Guilt if you don’t go, guilt if you do go, but it’s not approved of by family, guilt if you go but without immediately deciding to work in the nursery every other Sunday and so on and so forth. Church, for me (quite frankly a lot of Americans), had become about a chance to see my friends for a couple of hours on a Sunday, hear a nice sermon wrapped up in quippy alliteration, and go out for lunch after before taking a nap later that day. Shortly before we moved to Oregon, God began doing some serious demo in my heart.
Church is not wrapped up into Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights.
Now please hear me on this. I am not here to bash any one person or organization or point any fingers. Not at all. There are countless people in the church today who are genuine, honest, loving and solid.
But I need to be a part of something different. I have had a total of three short(ish) seasons in my adult life when my husband and I have taken some time away from the church. We received several “concerned” messages from well intentioned friends. “You really need to be in church.” “We just want to make sure you’re part of a church, because you know you need to be.” Bless them.
I simply do not feel the same way. I don’t believe in going to church just for the sake of going to church, like it’s a box to be checked on a list of what makes you a “good Christian”. Church can be a great place to connect with people, yes. Church can be a great place to learn, sure. But it’s not the end all solution. Not the westernized, American church anyways. I’m not saying I won’t ever be a part of an organized congregation again and I’m not saying we should all leave church to do our own thing.
What I am saying is that in this season of mine and Shawn’s lives, church has a whole new meaning. I don’t want to go to church anymore. No, I want to be church. I want to wear out my Bible with like minded people who are hungry for truth, not just for something nice to hang on their bathroom mirror. I want to build relationships founded in truth and love, and I might even do it on a Tuesday night. I want to spend my Sunday mornings with people like Rayon, people who just need to be loved. I want to gather in homes with people for warmth, and food and encouragement. I want my “tithe and offerings” to provide clean water for the third world, food for the hungry, a bed for the homeless, not an expensive new sanctuary.
I’m not angry, or upset (not in a bad way at least). My heart is going through one of the greatest changes it has ever experienced. I’m a little nervous, sure. But I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am for this movement in our lives. I pitched the idea of starting a new testament house church to Shawn, which isn’t something I ever thought I’d do. I contacted a friend out of state who already has a small house church to see if she’d be interested in becoming sister house churches…guess what? She was. Not just interested, but beyond excited. I can’t wait to see what God’s up to in all this.
I cried A LOT about this on Sunday. The guilt, first. But only for a moment. Then the tears were from fear (the good kind of fear), and then from the joy of letting God do His thing in my heart, and finally because He allowed me to see that this is one more way He is helping me to see the world through His eyes. I feel privileged. It’s scary diving into something so big and bold in a brand new place, during a brand new season of life where we know basically five people. But you know what? It only takes one spark to ignite a roaring, unstoppable blaze.
Let’s do this.