Yesterday was hard, but I have to believe it will turn out for the good. More than six months ago, I was led to a church in the last place I ever thought I’d look … Southwest City, Mo. I made wonderful friends there who I still love very much. The sermons and lessons were matching up with exactly what I needed to hear in my life, which was amazing. The church’s love and acceptance, as well as the spiritual growth I was able to find there, made it a place of solace for many months.
So it hasn’t made sense to me why I believe God wants me to leave that church. Well, I do sort of understand but obedience is still hard because I am really greiving. I feel like I’ve had a relationship break up. Sunday I went and told everyone I would not be back, except to come and say hi for social purposes. I know we all promised to keep in touch, but reality and history tells me that we won’t keep in touch as much as we want to now.
So where’s all this coming from? Let me remind you of a little history. I was raised in a church, even attended Christian schools all the way from preschool through college. I then basically chose to leave the church for about 10 years even though I never stopped believing in God. There was just many issues there that needed to be resolved within me. Although this may sound strange, I’m glad that I got away because I know now, for the first time in my life, that my faith is entirely my own. It isn’t dictated, it isn’t homework and it isn’t induced by guilt.
When I started to really feel the call to get back into the church…well to get back to God and have a real relationship with him… I was at a loss for what to do. I was raised in a nondenominational church so I didn’t know anything about the denominations. It also added to the problem that I didn’t really know what I believed. I knew what I grew up believing, but I was determined to start over and develop my own theology based on how my own interpretations of the Bible. As it turns out my theology hasn’t changed much, but I needed to back away so I could evaluate everything objectively.
It was around this time I was starting to get to know my new friend, Brock, who I had contacted on MySpace. I talked to him a lot about my new relationship with God and in turn my church search. He invited me to where his parents were pastors, which is how I ended up visiting the church in Missouri. I had no initial intentions of making that place my church home, after all it’s a 45-minute drive! But I knew almost instantly it was where I was supposed to be.
Well as my relationship with God and now with John has developed, I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’ve further developed my own theology. I have to come to terms with the fact that although I love the people at the church dearly, I don’t share some of the church’s beliefs.
This had not really come to the surface until recent weeks. When the pastor and his wife (my friend’s parents) left in June, I figured I would keep going for a while. I knew that a church wasn’t about its leaders but at the same time I was feeling like something was changing or going to change. John new that for his own reasons he needed to find a different church so I first thought that perhaps my pull away from my church was a desire to follow him. I knew I couldn’t make that kind of decision based on a man I was dating, even though we believe God is telling us he will eventually have us be married. So I resisted, and continued planning to attend the Missouri church.
Then life hit. I got sick one weekend, overslept a few others and for the most part simply couldn’t afford to pay for the gas. I was spending a lot of money in my last minute, frantic job search so I had to cut corners in other places. It was during this time that I finally realized that I was being told to go somewhere else. It was during this time that I felt a stronger pull to find a different church home although I did nothing about it. I was essentially attending “Bedside Baptist” and “Pillow Presbyterian,” if you catch my drift.
I wrestled with the decision to leave, knowing it was the right one but didn’t know how it should be executed. I didn’t want to just not go back, that seemed wrong. I didn’t know if I should go tell people in person, write a letter to the congregation, or what. It was also all during this time that I was doubting what I was being told to do. For one, I still felt like I was making the choice based on what my boyfriend was doing, or at least I was scared of doing that.
Another part of the it was, I think I was doubting my ability to discern God’s will and I was perhaps still a little mad at God because the teaching thing didn’t work out as I thought it was going to happen. I think subconciously I was wondering how the church thing would work out since the teaching thing didn’t happen how I thought God was planning. He obviously has a plan for my life in both regards.
I finally realized last week when I visited another church that I was not handling the situation well and I wasn’t following God’s plan. I visited this church and I basically flipped out. I was tense and had a horrible sense of foreboding and discomfort while I was there, all of which is pretty strange for me. I realized I needed closure with my church in Missouri so I determined to go this Sunday and make a clean break.
It was during all of this realizing and decision-making time that I’ve become more and more clear that this is a directive from God for ME, and not me just wanting to follow a man. As I said earlier, although I love the people, I do not agree with certain aspects of the theology. Church isn’t a social function, it’s where believers go to encourage each other in their walk with Christ. So it only makes sense to attend a church where you share the same basic beliefs. I also believe I need to be in a church home where I can more easily and effectively attend services or participate in programs throughout the week. I couldn’t do that in a tiny church that was 45 minutes away.
So as I left the church today, my heart ached for what I was leaving behind. I was truly grieving. But my heart was also hopeful because I knew I was following God’s will.
I just have to remember to keep following it so I know where to go next in this journey.