I don't need this church part.......or do I?
I was brand new to my faith and had been learning about God safely inside the walls of my home. I was reading a lot, listening to sermons online, and some podcasts, too. I was falling in love with Jesus and the journey with Him seemed to be evolving as the months went by.
A year in, I felt the nudge to take the community aspect that Jesus talked about seriously. I argued for quite awhile with the whole concept, not realizing I was being steered by my own personal bias and perspectives (ahem- judgement) of church and people who love church.
I can love you, Jesus, and that’s enough for me. I don’t need this church part.
The truth is I was afraid. While a part of my heart did want to experience community worship and teaching, what I really wanted was to fit in, and continue to hold up my image. Realizing I needed God in my life was a life-giving revelation, but a crushing blow to my pride. Sometimes it feels uncomfortable to me. I had been a fiercely-independent person my entire life. Ask my mama...I had to feed myself at 9-months old. And you better not touch my food! I took pride in how driven I was, how smart I was, and how put together I was. Admitting I wanted to be liked by people was hard. Admitting that I had deep painful feelings from past rejections felt so awful. I wanted to control my emotions, put up the barrier, and hold my mask on tight. I wanted to fit-in. But this new path was making it all too uncertain as to how I would do that. That’s what God does. He wrecks us and our perspectives.
As I wrestled with this nudge, the “what if” questions began snowballing:
What if I join a church and people in my life see me as one of those judgmental, hypocritical Christians and don’t want me? Or don’t include me anymore? What if they cast me off as one of those crazy God people?
What if I join a church and the people in it don’t like me? What if they judge me? What if it’s a terrible experience? What if I abandon my journey and lose this newfound peace that is changing my life? I have enough evidence of church experience stories from people in my life to justify why I shouldn’t do it.
What if my family is upset with the direction God is taking my life?
What if I lose friends?
Just what if?
I held onto these scenarios for a very long time, stalling any forward movement from the initial nudge. But, that’s the thing about God - when He puts something on your heart it doesn’t seem to go away. That was the God I was learning about and falling in love with - a God who pursues us by extraordinary means and doesn’t care about where we are at currently.
He just wants...US.
I had occasionally been attending this church; hiding in the back. The announcements for the next Bible Study kept prompting my heart. So I signed up. Stubborn and scared I took a step. I joined the women’s group. Fast forward a few years ... I can now look back and see exactly why God was nudging me. It's hard to put into words how grateful I am I stepped in. The questions I penned above were not extinguished overnight in the community. I admit that occasionally their voice gets louder and interrupts my thoughts. I do admit that I experienced those fears when joining the community. And God got me through it and held me close when it was hard.
God taught me that while I didn’t like feeling judged or that I didn’t fit in, I was using that as an excuse to judge others first. I wanted to decide ahead of time who people were or how they were perceived by the world. Then, I could separate myself and protect my own image, my own pride of who I was. How I was perceived and approved of was a misplaced value that could have prevented me from receiving many gifts now in my life that, quite frankly, could fill a book. The idea of missing out on what God had planned for me, by not taking that first step in community, is now more frightening and sadder than being misunderstood and judged unfairly by people. I hope my God-nudged steps never end. And I look forward to all that’s waiting for me on the other side of each one.
By Lindsey McInnerny