church…

It’s easy to skip church right now. I confess, it’s possible I’ve used our relationships with the people at the Presbyterian church as an excuse to not attend Divine Litury up to now.  I’m so conflicted on Sunday mornings. I wring my hands and wander around the house just looking for someone to tell me to go or tell me to stay home or tell me to leave everyone at home and attend Liturgy at the Orthodox church.  It’s just that the religious practice of the current church life we’re committed is difficult for me. I’ve spoken before about the reasons I stay there…friends, the children’s program, friends…

I love and desire community, truly I do. I love the friends I have at the Pres. church and they are outrageously supportive of my journey toward Orthodoxy.  I have a smart and loving group there. Each time I talk about it with them I’m both convinced I am Orthodox and convinced that these are my “people” and yet, they are not Orthodox. I love the work that my friend Sarah does with the kids. I love the way the church embraces them. The problem is that I feel so unable to guide them in their spiritual journey at the moment, I need someone to do this for me for a little while. This feels safest, this feels right. It’s as though I’m entrusting them to Sarah as some kind of Spiritual Nanny for a time, while I work outside the home and figure out how to navigate it all.

The thought I had today was that I don’t want to feel as though the reason I attend church is so that I can see my friends or so that I won’t disappoint someone. I have this new strange thought that I’d like to attend church because I want to be in communion with God, first and foremost. I want to have this feeling of showing up because He notices when I am not there, He notices and He pines for me to show up. I want to pine for Him this way. Perhaps I do and that is why I am so conflicted. I know where I ought to be, not for me, but for Him. Adding my voice and my presence to the mix is a blessing, I hope, to the people who surround me, yes…but I want to add my voice and my presence on Sunday because of Him, not because of me.

I used to hate the “obligation” I felt to go to church on Sundays when I was growing up. Holy days of “obligation” became a legalistic way to punish me for sleeping in, excluding me from communion, excluding me from community. I never worried that if I missed church someone in the parish would notice and disapprove. I always worried that it would rather, affect my standing with the “church.”

Now, I wonder if what I require is a reconciling of that experience as I reconcile the experience of wanting to please people by showing up.  I wonder if finally, putting my emphasis on attending Liturgy as a means of actually being in communion with God, alongside other pilgrims is really the mature choice. I show up because He expects me, He’s made a place for me at the table, as He has for every other child he’s created. I show up because when I go I remember the reason for our time together, I give thanks and praise for Him, for His work, for His good parenting. The meal takes place whether I show up or not. It’s not dependent on me, I get that. Whether I’m “missed” by the other pilgrims is a matter of personal relationship, whether I’m judged by the “church” is a matter of religion and institution, if I’m missed by the One who made me, though…this is another thing altogether. This is the primary relationship, the one I must attend first in order to be sustained, to be able to navigate the matters of personal relationship and religion and institution…

I want to start showing up. I will get there, soon I hope. I know He’ll keep a place for me there, of this I am confident.

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