Sunday, January 30, 2011

Keeping it real--going to church

I'm coming out of the closet today. I'm sure some will, at the very least, pity me. Hopefully nobody would feel angry or disgusted with me, but who knows?
I don't like to go to church. There, I said it. It's true. Every single Sunday I struggle with finding the strength to get out of bed and go to church.
This is not because I didn't grow up in church and it's not because we are going to a church that doesn't meet our needs. Our church is fantastic.
I grew up attending church every time the doors were open--Sunday morning, Sunday night, Monday (for visitation) and Wednesday. My mom was on staff and my dad was a deacon. We went to church. It was like a second home. I don't ever remember resenting it much--maybe a bit during my teenage years when I thought I had something better to do.
Upon entering adulthood I suddenly had the right to CHOOSE whether I went to church. This was a new freedom for me. During college I often missed my old church family. I went to church often in my college town and did benefit from it, but it wasn't quite the same. It wasn't comfortable and known.
After Eric and I got married we (of course, in our minds) started looking for our church. We ended up back at the church I grew up in for a few years. It was comfortable for me. Everybody knew me and loved me. However, my church was not the place Eric needed to be to grow. It was too conservative in worship for him. I had changed a lot physically (from thin to overweight) and found it hard to imagine what others were thinking of me.
We started looking for a church that met both of our needs. This can turn into a vicious cycle, because there are no perfect churches. Still, we felt it important that we find a church that could nurture us both. Plus, we were becoming parents. We WANTED to have the sort of family where our kids were at church 2 or 3 times a week. We wanted for our children the same sort of spiritual culture that we had growing up.
We're 10 years into parenting now and I am done lying to myself. My kids are not going to grow up in a home where we are at church 2-3 times a week. We count it as a success if we make it on Sunday mornings. This is not because I don't like church. When I get there I am spiritually renewed and I know it's a good thing to go. But I struggle constantly with getting myself there. I don't like to GO to church.
I have this annoying condition called "Social Anxiety Disorder." It's something that I've probably always struggled with, but that progressed at adulthood to a very high degree. When Eric and I got married it was all I could do to (for example) call the bank and see what our balance was. Calling a plumber? Forget about it! Going to the grocery store by myself? No way!!! We figured out pretty quickly that this was more than shyness and I needed medical intervention. Thankfully, I take a medication that brings this issue from a 10, down to about a 3. It is a life-changing medication for me.
Talking on the phone? No problem. I do that all day, every day! Obviously email and online stuff is not affected. Family gatherings? I can usually get myself to without a lot of anxiety. I don't really feel the need to "get together with friends" much, but when we do (once every couple of months) it's nice. Still, I need to pump myself up for that and am glad when it's over (even if I have a great time). Large crowds like the state fair? Um...no thank you!
Church. This is the problem. This is when my mind tries to tell me that I shouldn't go because (1) you aren't involved in the church so people think you are just a fair weather Sunday church-goer or not a "real" Christian, and (2) your medicine for Fibro makes you sweat like a hog and people will stare at you, and (3) you are fat, which implies laziness and gluttony, and (4) it hurts your body to sit in the church pew or chairs for even a few hours. I know in my mind that all of these things aren't true--that in reality most people probably don't even notice us (!)--but there is another side of me that absolutely believes these things are true.
When we get to church, I count it as a win. If I can psyche myself up for it, I usually enjoy it and get something out of it. I know that the Bible teaches us that as believers we need to worship in a community of other believers. I know it's ideal that my family be involved in church. I also know that our family will probably never meet that ideal.
I guess what I want to get across to those that are happily very involved in church is that I feel no less Christian because I am not involved in church. I guess when I was growing up I always assumed those who didn't attend church regularly where back-sliding Christians who didn't really have a close relationship with Christ. *I* was judging others in the way I now assume others judge me.
In reality, I feel like I have a very close relationship with my Christ. I also feel that we are raising a family where Christianity defines our family culture. Christianity, but not church. We pray; we study; we worship; we learn; we just aren't in the building like we ideally should be. [Yes, I really do believe the Bible teaches us we should go to church.]
I write as a Christian on this blog. And I guess I've always felt as if I was presenting myself as something I am not, because most people reading here probably assume we are highly involved in church activities. Maybe someday we will be, but right now that is not the case.
So, my Christian friends, please try not to think less of me. Please believe me when I say I've done it both ways and it is possible to have a very close walk with Christ without attending Church every week. Not ideal, but possible. My family is doing that.

9 comments:

Chantelle 5:41 PM  

Put your hand in the air and pretend you can feel mine giving you a SERIOUSLY BIG high five!! Right there with ya, sister!! I am a PK, born and raised in church. We were there every time the doors were open and I know that the fact that we no longer are is probably misinterpreted by many as 'back slidden-ness'. Oh well. I love the Lord, I live my best to serve Him and I, too, do not like going to church. We read the word daily, we sing to Jesus, we pray, we give, and we go to church every other Sunday and feel very comfortable that we will still make it to heaven. :) -- Love your REAL-ness.

Heather 6:52 PM  

Girl, you have no idea how close to home this hits. Social Anxiety Disorder? Check. I've finally gotten to the place that I can function, but it's still always a struggle. And for silly stuff! Calling the dr. office, ordering takeout, going to any social function where I have to actually talk to people. I'd love to meet my internet buds, but I've got the perpetual fear that they'll be let down, because I'm so comfortable typing away, but don't seem "with it" in person. I totally loved our small group from church, but I skipped last week because . . . I started to panic about talking to people I don't know that well. Oh yeah. This hit so close to home. I'm so glad you put it out there. Folks that don't deal with it have such a hard time understanding. Love ya girl!

exmish 7:17 PM  

Aw, Anita, I hope you didn't post this because someone said or did something stupid.

*HUGS*

I don't enjoy going to church but it's because it's the only weekly fight that begins and ends with a prayer in our family..HA HA. :) (Seriously, wrangling them can be mind-numbing sometimes.)

(I do like teaching Sunday School and the women's class. :) )

*HUGS* I know God loves you no matter what.

Mama D.'s Dozen 11:38 PM  

So appreciate your transparency.

I don't at all pity you, I just feel badly for you that you struggle with Social Anxiety Disorder (which I've never heard of before). So hard!

I believe that God also allows each of us to have different seasons in our life where we may or may not be as involved in church. There have been years where our family was in church 3 times per week ... mainly because the KIDS begged to be there that often. Then, we moved a block from church, and the kids could walk over for their activities, but mom and dad didn't have to go to EVERYTHING. This was a very GOOD thing ... with a dozen children.

Now, we are in the process of looking for a new church. Oh. So. Hard. MOST weeks, I have NO desire to get out of bed to go "visit" a church. I don't want to be the "stranger". I don't want to wonder if anyone will even say, "hello". I don't like to stand there wishing I'd lost another 100 pounds.

But ... I KNOW that we need to find a church. I KNOW that it is very important for us as a family to be in church ... especially since we are walking through a VERY difficult crisis situation (which gives me all the more reason to want to stay in bed).

But, since we are walking through a crisis, I so wish that we were currently involved in a loving community of Believers. Oh how good that would be.

Let me just say ... attending church 3 times per week does not earn anyone a quicker route to heaven. Nope. Doesn't. Some people even go to church multiple times per week, and sadly they never make it to heaven. God's Word does not say that church attendance is the way to heaven.

Keep doing what you're doing! Keep loving Jesus. Keep seeking Him, as to what HE wants for your family in regards to church.

Hope your week is BLESSED!

Laurel :)

sue 10:56 PM  

Anita,

Ken works every Sunday, so when I go to church I am taking all 8 children without my husband and it has been this way for years. There are some Sundays when I just know I do not have it in me and I do not go, we stay home.

I also do not volunteer at church or church activities. I simply do not have the time to make that kind of commitment right now. Maybe someday I will, but for now taking care of my family and homeschooling is all I have time for and I am okay with that.I do visit a nursing home once a month with all of my children.

We read the Bible at home,do family devotions and prayer. That is just as important, possibly more important than making sure we get to church every Sunday.

I remind myself that God wants me to minister to husband and children first, before other minsitries.

Sounds like you're doing just fine. Pleasing the Lord is what counts, not man.

Sue :)

A. Gillispie 11:19 PM  

Thank you ladies, for showing sucm compassion and understanding. Honestly, I thought I might be the only one with this issue! I don't want you to think that I feel more justified just because I'm not alone, but it does feel good not to be alone. =-)

I know all you all say is true. On one hand I want to be that family that feels as at home at church as we do at home. On the other hand, I absolutely know that attending church once (or twice, or more) a week is not what makes me Christian and is not the most important thing for my children's upbringing in Christianity. It's the every day walk that makes the biggest difference.

I suppose if I were going to choose between going to church every Sunday or nurturing my family in Christianity every day, I would choose the latter in a heartbeat!

We'll just keep doing the best we can do as each day comes to us.

Anita
P.S. Heather, yet ANOTHER thing we have in common! I would have NEVER guessed you dealt with social anxiety. I suppose most wouldn't think that about me either.

Mama D.'s Dozen 12:14 AM  

I would NEVER have guessed that about either you or Heather. You both seem so fun, bubbly, out-going. Seriously. I was surprised when you brought it up, but even more surprised that Heather struggles with the same thing.

Love you both!

Laurel

Danielle 3:14 PM  

Hey Anita,

Your honesty is awesome! And you are far from alone. I think a lot of moms struggle to make it to church each week. I grew up the same as you, and my mom thinks I'm a heathen because sometimes we go to the Saturday night service and sleep in on Sunday. That's life right now, though. I can't always deal with the thought of getting all the kids up and ready if Chris is working...especially in winter.

If you are ever interested our church has an "online campus" each Sunday. Everyone logs on at the same time, listens to our awesome praise band and watches the message. There's a chat feature so you can kind of connect and discuss. They have all the recent messages posted online, but I thought this was a fresh new approach to church. The website is www.crossroadscn.com, and you just click on the countdown til next live service.

waitingarms 12:57 PM  

I can so relate! I am currently in a season in my life where I feel going to church is mostly a duty, rather than something I spend the week looking forward to. I am solo on Sunday mornings and just getting the kids ready and to church as well as making sure they are quiet for 1 1/2 hours (we don't have childcare at church) seems too much trouble. I only hear half the message since I am trying to make sure everyone is still and quiet. That and the fact that I am no longer actively involved in any ministries (many small kids at this time), the fact that I am not exactly in the bible belt and most of everyone just goes in to do their time for 1 1/2 hours on Sunday mornings and then goes back to their own lives does not leave much room for community which I yearn for in a church family. All that to say, while I still make it every Sunday, it is not currently something I look forward to and sometimes feels pretty meaningless - I am sure not forsaking the assembly of believers did not exactly mean believers politely smilling at each other on Sundays, hearing half a message because they are preoccupied with what is for lunch, and then waiting for the next Sunday to do it all over again!

Blessings.