When I graduated from law school in 2008 I moved back to Southern California for what I thought would be a brief time of preparing for and taking the beast that is the State of California Bar Exam. During that time I decided to take a wee break from attending traditional church, aka the building with its four walls, and its politics and pettiness, which too often overshadow the purpose of the Church: to worship God and to be the collective body of Christ (by loving, serving, sacrificing for and extending grace upon grace) in the world. Well that and three years of boredom and stress (ahem, law school), leaving a great church in Seattle, and the added bonus of grieving the loss of what was then my most important relationship, resulted in my not having the wherewithal or fortitude to undertake adventures in finding a new church community. Especially when I would was only planning on being a community I figured I would leave in 2.5 months.
Three months have passed into more than a couple handfuls. And come Sunday morning I am still restless. I have attended church about two dozen times over the last two and a half years, though I attend “church of the ipod” religiously. Church of the iPod consists of me, earbuds, my iPod with sermon podcasts, my running shoes, and miles of road or trail.
My hiatus from church is something I have not given much thought to until recently because I have had some difficulty articulating the issues I have with church. I take issue with the hypocrisy, hate, bitterness and injustice carried out under the banner of being “biblical” and the lives destroyed by this way of biblical living. I take issue with the insular, cliche-ish nature of church members, 3-5 point sermons prescribing the steps necessary to achieve your best life now. Maybe it was wearisome suffering of lonely, dark nights and even lonelier and darker days that took me away from the church. Maybe it was the loss of relationships, loved ones and notions of myself. Maybe it was surrendering my sense of deservedness. Maybe it was a suffering whose only expression was heaving sobs. Maybe it was experiencing God outside of church; experiencing God in moments of indescribable beauty and moments of indescribable suffering.
As I read this over it sounds like I have given up on church, or that I think it is useless. Neither of which could be further from the truth. I believe there is a biblical mandate for the church (see, paragraph one, “the purpose of the Church…”), but I have been harmed by the church and so much collateral damage lies in the wake of churches and Christians. Needless to say I have some things to work out.
Then a friend of mine sent out the following challenge:
i have been seriously thinking about putting together some short essays/stories on women & the church. young(er) women & the church. both in and out…on the outskirts and fringe. married and unmarried, moms, and anti-babies. this is for you. for us….My goal is that our voices can be heard. from what i can tell, there are a lot of us out there. but i don’t see or hear much about the perspectives of women who choose to leave the church for one reason or another…. especially those who leave in their early 20s and beyond. apparently, we are an anomaly. and its not too often you hear about strong single women in the church either. where ever you are, you have a story.
I am not sure if I struggle with the church because I am a well-educated, single woman in my “early 20s and beyond.” But I am finally willing to wrestle with my questions, my frustrations, my scars, my hopes. As such, I will be writing periodically about my adventures in trying to regain a sense that the church, though broken, is a thing of and conduit of grace and beauty. Please note that my writing is more about pushing thoughts out of my head to make space for others. As such, they will be the musings of someone in the wilderness. I will likely meander, go to the extreme to see the vista and then backtrack. I will be say things just to see what they look like on paper, how they sound when I speak them. Some things I will dismiss outright, others I will put out there only to look at it awhile before turning my back on it, others I will carry along with me testing their truth and trustworthiness.
With all that said, get your packs and hiking boots ready. Off we go…
– The Generationals, “Trust” (Listen to it HERE)
– Mean Lady, “Indian Sun”
– Iron & Wine, “Tree by the River” (Download it HERE)
– Alex Ebert, “Trust” (Listen to it HERE)
– Best Coast, “Crazy for You”
– Rasputina, “Holocaust of Giants (Daytrotter session)” (Download it HERE)
– Alela Diane, “Oh! My Mama” (Download it HERE)
– Ravens & Chimes, “Division Street” (Download it HERE)
– Hey Marseilles, “Rio” (Download it HERE)
– Grouplove, “Don’t Say Oh Well” (Listen to it HERE)
– BRAIDS, “Lemonade (Green Go remix)” (Download it HERE)
– The Get Up Kids, “Shatter Your Lungs” (Download it HERE)
– Joe Pug, “Hymn 35” (Download it HERE)
– The Radio Dept., “David” (Download to it HERE — download available for 3 days)