why church

I’ve found myself back at church, though I hadn’t gone in decades. The last time I remember going, I’d ditched out of youth group in search of some party with boys and booze. I imagine Jesus looking downwards, dejected, as my friends and I peeled off into the night.

I was raised in a non-religious household, though my parents introduced us to church and even went themselves for awhile. The one church was too Fire and Brimstone for one, the other too Hippy Dippy for the other. I liked the Hippy Dippy one best. We watched The Yellow Submarine and ate graham crackers heavy with cinnamon sugar. The crackers at the Fire and Brimstone church were plain, possibly saltines.

At the fun church, we got to draw all over a plain white belted robe with magic markers. While captivated wholly by the tale of poor Jacob stripped of his trippy robe and thrown into a pit by his own brothers, which I could easily imagine because I had an older brother, I was mostly thrilled to somehow win this robe as a take-home prize. I kept it folded neatly in the dress up box underneath my bed and wore it occasionally during solemn events, such as the front garden funeral for Sundance the hermit crab and, later, his brother Spicoli.

I don’t know why then that I wound up back at the Fire and Brimstone church a year or so later, alone and voluntarily to my recollection, though we all know how memories are holey and not to be trusted. I remember sitting around a table and closing my eyes tight when the sunday school teacher told us to ask Jesus to enter our hearts and feeling nothing but embarrassment for all of us.

And how on earth did I wind up back at church at the ripe age of 40, or is it that exactly? Is this what people do in middle age, like taking up exercise and paying bills on time and giving up booze and cigarettes? Let’s hedge our bets, play it safe where we can. No one lives forever, you know.

I’m pretty sure that giving up the drink led me to church in a roundabout way. Alcohol was a real spirit blocker and the god talk in early recovery never really bothered me because I picked up right where I left off. I don’t still have Jacob’s trippy robe, but I feel power and comfort in something bigger beyond my own little world. I feel tapped in to other people doing better by themselves and their families and the world at large. It’s intoxicating, ironically or maybe not.

I wound up back at church to give my kids a hopefully well-rounded base for their own spirituality and for my own selfish reasons, though I don’t fully know what those are. A sense of community, maybe, or the feeling of connecting and giving back. The decision to try church again reminds me of when I quit drinking. It feels sudden yet a long time coming, with some purpose beyond grasp but instinctively accepted. It feels like the right place to be, though not without causing conflict in our household.

My husband married someone who didn’t go to church because Sundays were Hangover Days. We drove to Target in the late morning and joked it was our church, with Elvis belting out hymns on the radio. Many years later, his wife is this strange teetotaler who puts on work clothes voluntarily on a Sunday morning and drives the kids to church and isn’t around to paint the hallway or help out with yard work, though to be fair that may be for the best. It’s one more change to adapt to, and I have a hard time explaining to him or anyone why church? so I guess I am just attempting to do that here.

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29 thoughts on “why church

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  1. Wow. It’s like you are describing my thoughts exactly. Religion has resurfaced in me, slowly but surely over the past five years. I have fought it pretty hard, since virtually no one that I spend time with is at all religious and there’s a definite disdain in my circle of friends for Christianity. I was raised Christian, kind of… My grandpa was a pastor but my parents stopped bringing us to church when I was still pretty young, probably 8 or 9. Then I briefly went to a summer camp for a few years in high school and at that time, I loved it. I felt safe there and loved the feeling of singing and praying with others. Then, after high school, I was sucked into the vortex of pretty hard partying and trying to forget some bad things that happened, and I swung completely the other way, critically evaluating god and deciding he was most definitely not real. As I’ve really become an adult, which despite my 37 years has only happened in the last five or so, I’ve felt this longing for the positive aspects of church. It’s been a slow process to find one that I felt comfortable in, where I could overlook some of the things that turn me off about religion. My husband has no interest and is just as surprised as yours probably. I find it hard to explain as well. But I also find it brings me a lot of comfort and joy, that it is a place where I’m inspired to live a clean and healthy life in connection to others, and that makes it worth it. Thanks for sharing, I love knowing that there are others with a similar experience!

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    1. Thank you so much for this. It brings me great comfort too to hear I’m not alone in this. Any place that inspires clean, healthy living is where I want to put in my time, with the bonus being that comfort and joy you mentioned.

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  2. You know, things happen in strange ways. I had a situation yesterday, big and heavy in the responsibility department for me, which typically makes me uncomfortable, though I haven’t yet had time to process how I truly feel about it. Today, in consideration of whether or not I want to write another post this week, I log on to WordPress. First up: Paul talking about Eskimo Angels, which framed for me a beautiful way of looking at the situation. Second up: this post, talking about church and spirituality, and how we in recovery often wind up there, not always quite knowing how we did. This type of conversation was a big part of the situation yesterday, me trying to explain how I’ve evolved into the church-goer I am, without squirming in my seat self-consciously feeling like I’m a Jesus Freak.

    Absolutely amazing stuff, how all of our minds seem to click into one another. The very nature of the post I was considering is why it’s so uncomfortable to talk about spiritual stuff. But I was uncomfortable even thinking about writing it, so I remained undecided.

    I’m trying to figure out if your post is a signal that I should get it out on paper, or a sign that you’ve covered the Church issue so beautifully I should leave well enough alone!

    Now, enough about me… I could entirely relate to the idea of stark contrasts: how we are, what we do, what fills our time, our priorities, now, versus what they looked like pre-recovery, or at the time of our marriage, or… fill in the blank. If I look at my husband’s timeline, not a whole heck of a lot has changed… still loves the Eagles, still loves golf, etc., but when I look at every big change in our lifestyles, I am somehow at the root of it, and most has to do with recovery.

    Funny side story, or maybe it’s not a side story at all: we never drank coffee before I went to AA. And now we drink it 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Just one small example.

    And now I’m rambling on your blog, which is most likely a way of getting out of working on my own.

    As always, amazing, intuitive stuff to which I can directly relate!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I guess I hadn’t realized the ripple effect of changes, particularly years in, from recovery. I think I was too scared or timid in the beginning to dare to try anything but not drink. And that sure was plenty for a long time! Interesting about the coffee. Long time coffee lovers here but savor it more now. And can’t wait to read whatever topic you choose to focus on. Love how we often click on similar topics within the same day, even.

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  3. Lovely post. That inexplicable draw back to the church happened to me, too. My husband didn’t understand, but eventually came with me on Sundays. It’s been a fascinating journey, led by faith not by sight. Among the best flashlights for me to carry along that darkened path was CS Lewis. He went through his own draw-back to the church, and writes so well about all that’s wrong, and all that’s right with church. Interestingly, Lewis returned to his faith after being challenged by Tolkien to disprove it all.
    These paths are not rational and sequential; they don’t make sense at the time. But later, they make perfect sense.
    “The instrument through which you see God is your whole self,” Lewis wrote. “And if a man’s self is not kept clean and bright, his glimpse of God will be blurred—like the Moon seen through a dirty telescope.”
    An apt analogy for the haze of heavy drinking.
    Enjoy your journey. Thanks for letting us join you on the trail.

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    1. Love the Lewis quote about seeing God through our whole self. And your point that taking certain paths will make perfect sense later on. This in fact makes perfect sense now. Great comment – thank you, Sibella.

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  4. I too am back to searching for that perfect church. Throughout my life I’ve been a church member and throughout my 35 year marriage, I’ve attended with our children. But since moving away from our grown children 8 years ago, my Sunday mornings were all about recovering from Saturday night drinking at home (until 15 months ago!). My husband, a non-participating Catholic, is content to enjoy Sunday mornings with a big breakfast and some down-time. I am back to reaching out for more spiritual enlightenment, companionship, and conversation. Interesting how awakening with a clear head makes you want to fill it with positive messages.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s so nice to hear you’re also searching for the right church, and I hope you find one that brings meaning and fulfillment. It’s all kind of exciting, especially knowing this comes from sobriety. Love that.

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  5. wow, we all seem to be on the same page. I was raised catholic and went to mass almost every week w/ my father growing up. Mom went sometimes. I attended CCD, a catholic HS & college. My children are being raised catholic attending church, ccd and making their sacraments. After my divorce 7 years ago I stopped going to church and just attended holiday services. Church always made me think and reflect and I had a hard time w/ that after my divorce. Then this is also when my drinking started to spiral out of control. The past year or so I realized I was missing something. A friend attends a christian based church~ a real big church and they services center around the bible & teachings. I was itching to go. Finally this past spring I attended w/ a friend and was drawn into it. The sermon spoke to me about my addiction that I was just starting my sobriety journey. I knew right then I was missing my spiritual self. I took my sons and the youngest enjoyed this type of service~ the oldest teen could care less. I want my children to have more faith… I know they don’t get much out of catholic services and I am not sure why. I would like them more involved in a youth group and our catholic church does not offer that. Growing up I enjoyed attending youth group w/ my neighbor at her baptist church. So going forward now I am attending both catholic mass and the local christian non-demonetization services~ and encouraging my teens to join me. I feel so good after~ It is a shame thou (and I have seen it/heard it form some friends) the criticism when people post religious things on FB or talk about their faith~ there are so many that discourage it in a social settings among friends~ and that does bother me.

    I am glad you are taking the girls~ the men in our lives if they don’t want to join, that is their choice (and loss, lol) Hugs, MB

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember you talking about that church awhile back and I’m so glad you’re going and enjoying. The spiritual element has probably been the most crucial to my sobriety, yet I do rarely talk about it. It feels private, but also taboo because it is so personal and different for everyone.

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  6. wow..
    you obviously touched a nerve, or maybe not a nerve, more a well-spring of church thought here…
    i look forward to reading more of the comments,and loved your post.

    I had a”let’s go find a church” moment back the night my husband and I decided no more birth control, which shocked the hell out of me, avid agnostic that i was and had been forever. We actually found a wonderful Church, social justice and non-denominational, where he could sing in the choir and I could get involved myself and with our son. I met some of my dearest friends there, friends to this day. When he died I allowed them to give him the send off he deserved and then I cut my ties with the Church and with the god that i never quite believed in.

    And, like you and others, I find myself a seeker again. Sober and seeking… (sounds like an on-line dating add!). I love reconnecting with my spiritual self, it has made a vast difference in my life. I don’t go to church but have made prayer and meditation a cornerstone of my sobriety, and i listen to that part of me i had walled up with alcohol for so long.

    I’m happy to be sober and seeking with you all!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sober and seeking! Pretty much describes us all, huh? The church we landed in is non-denominational and big on social justice. The people seem welcoming and diverse. I’m really excited for my kids and I to get involved. Love that any of us can access that connection and peace at any time through prayer and meditation.

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  7. Same as Changing Course Now, except that I continued to go and beg God, while sitting hungover in His house,to please help me. Took me a while to get His message. Our pastors have changed so now in the process of finding someone that can make the message seem relevant to me. We are all so much alike in so many ways. Drinking smothered so much.
    Sharon

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    1. It took me a long time to get the message too. Loved your line that drinking smothered so much. Smothered. Perfect word for it.

      Change can be good and sometimes just what we need. I hope you find a good fit in a pastor and church.

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  8. Maybe between us all, we can figure it out together.
    I was the stereotypical Catholic school girl. Church EVERY day and weekends. In 2 feet of snow! Never missed.
    After college, I quit going for many reasons and most of them….very good reasons.
    Not even 6 months ago, we started “looking” and found one just down the street. It feels more like a family Sunday dinner than preaching and it seems to fill a mystery void that I’ve been too chicken to explore.

    Your post was perfect.

    It seems that spirituality is a little easier to write about than religion and you addressed both in a way that was thought provoking and inclusive.

    How happy I am so see people on here I admire and love walking a similar path.

    Xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is so interesting to hear now how many people I admire are in a similar place right now. I just had no idea and it’s like this layer got peeled back and it makes me happy to know. A Sunday dinner sounds like a great feeling to get from a service. Yep, that would make me want to go back. Happy for you and your family that you found it so close to home.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Makes me happy, too!
        The best thing the minister said (and what prompted us to join) was when she noted before her sermon, “I want you to feel like you are coming to hang out at home. This is a place where you can mistakes, spill gravy and act silly. It’s your family and that’s what families do.”
        Sold!
        I love that you wrote about this and that it brought everyone to the table to discuss. I’m eager to hear more 🙂
        xo

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  9. I wasn’t raised with any kind of religion and discovered church late in life. Recovery has been very spiritual for me and sometimes I feel like a freak with how spiritually connected I feel. Gathering with people who are open to the same things I’ve opened myself up to is really powerful.

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  10. Thanks for the post.

    I have been all over the map on this one. Raised as a Roman Catholic (whenever you have four catholics, you have a fifthI proclaimed myself an aetheist in the fifth grade, etc. etc. and found myself at the age of 50 something as the administrator of an inner city church, and got burnt on that one. My wife is actually an ordained clergy person.

    I find myself in church perhaps once per month, but still am uncomfortable when doing The Lord’s Prayer at AA meetings. I enjoy the singing and music a lot. I have occassionally sung in the men’s chant choir.

    A church can be a place of refuge, comfort, reflection. I particularly enjoy religous spaces outside of my own culture – mosques, synagogues, churches in other countries. When I was in Turkey, there was something I really enjoyed about hearing the Call To Prayer. I liked the idea of simply stopping and being reflective several times a day. Perhaps if I understood what was being chanted I would feel very different. When I was roaming the streets for a couple of days in Huaraz Peru a few weeks ago, I went into every church that was open, sat for a few moments and was reflected.

    I still cannot somehow get past that big dude in the sky passing judgment and that sort of thing which helped me declare myself an aetheist in the fifth grade. My wife and many of my AA friends are able to deal with these scriptural things as all metaphor, and draw the strength from that. Perhaps if I first came at this later in life, without all of the fire and damnation of my youth, I would be less angst-ridden over this all.

    Like much in recovery, church works really well sometimes. I get a lot out of books like the Spirituality of Imperfection and other such things.

    So, I will continue to travel that road, and some of it will work and some of it won’t.

    So it goes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like what you said about maybe some people taking the scripture as metaphor. This is where I get tripped up, but the message itself can feel really important. Something about the way you phrased this is really helpful. That’s so cool that your wife is ordained clergy.

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      1. Just wanted to chime in here – because just keep in mind that the Scriptures are a mix of things and some are metaphors – some is doctrine – and some are just historical accounts. Like the first five books are the Torah – which is the old law that was for Jews back in the day. Then we have more “history” with the books of the prophets – and the 27 books of the New testament have some doctrine but sometimes it is very situational. And someone once told me that whenever we read a verse or section we should always ask…

        who was this written to – when and why-
        what is the overall context –
        what are the verse before and after also saying (because you can pull out a verse and make it say whatever you want)
        and what it does mean for today.

        for example, a verse about women covering the head is not necessarily doctrine – but Paul wrote it a time when some sexy women were going to church looking all seductive – and it was just pulling from the getting together – and disruptive, etc. anyhow, some adopt this verse to mean women should cover their heads – but this was situational and addressed a 1st century church.

        and the same thing with 1 John 1:9 – also called the Christian’s bar of soap. It says “If you confess your sins…” well the thing is this was not written to Christians – this was written to agnostics of the time and well, it just is not meant for doctrine – yet this verse has gotten woven into religious groups and has people confessing and confessing in redundancy to the grace that was received – even though we have to admit and accept and all that – but this just gets twisted.

        in closing, just remember we have to rightly divide the word of God and always ask for context.
        Peace to you this day 🙂

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  11. I was raised Catholic. My parents were barely invested at that point, so we went to church off and on. As an adult, I have abandoned religion, but I have become intensely spiritual. Years before my sobriety, even. I walk 3 miles every morning in a gorgeous city park and I’ve always stated that this park is my church. It has become so much more important to me in my sobriety. I see God in every leaf, every new duckling born, every gorgeous flower that blooms. I feel God in the warm breeze and the sunshine on my back as I move along. I have an emotional connection to the park and bask in its amazement every day, through every season. There is not one day that the park doesn’t deliver something for me to be grateful for in my life, just by existing. I think it’s great that you are finding such comfort in church. Community is so powerful.

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    1. This is so great. The day I wrote that post on church, I’d had an outdoor run complete with a real god moment. Cresting a tough hill, good music on the earbuds, the beautiful, crisp pre-fall weather – it struck me in the best possible way. So I totally get what you’re saying. Nature is where I can almost always tap into spirituality. The outdoors is church for me too.

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  12. Oh!!! I love that you found a good place to explore your spiritual-ness. I often think about finding a church and have faith that when the time is right there I’ll be. (Lord, is all that Jesus-y enough? Lol. I’m kidding- ack! Will spiritual humor convey over a comment on a blog post?) I know we have had many of the same questions and growing pains when it comes to finding a comfortable place that feels genuine when it comes to spirituality. There are some amazing things at work out there in this big ol’ universe- and I rejoice in them daily.

    Why church? Hell, why NOT church. If there’s a bunch of folk who want to talk about cool shit and feel good and fuzzy then I’m all for it. And if there’s a chance for delicious casseroles even better.

    You’ve inspired me as usual. xoxo

    p.s. outside is my church too. there is no where, besides my own heart, where I feel closer to god/the universe/the force/the big part of it all.

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  13. Just a quick chime in … I often don’t know why I do much of what I do in sobriety, but I do know that I don’t always need to know or explain myself (big issues for me). I have found this certain comfort in fine tuning my insides (spiritual connection) and somehow things work out in the end. Despite my crazy head. Life is such a connected path (aka…spiritual). I can’t imagine being able to do it without getting spiritually fed. Good thoughts for me this Sunday morning. xo Lisa

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  14. I don’t know if I am not getting your post reminders, but I am always late to these…and I guess it’s good because I get to read the rich comments. I am one of those “I am not religious but spiritual” guys but I have always had a soft spot for religion – the rituals, the somberness, the reliability. I think we all find our level when we need to find it. I can never say I won’t go to a church or mosque or whatnot. We often go to a Buddhist Temple where the kids go downstairs and learn about compassion, etc. and do are and have snacks. The wife and I listen to someone talk, with some meditation / singing. I usually just sleep for the hour…lol. (no disrespect, but I am seemingly always tired). But I do enjoy it when I am awake.

    Great post as usual. Tackled with great sensitivity and forethought.

    Blessings
    Paul

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  15. Hey K – what a nice post – and I wish I had time to read all of the comments between you and your readers – the couple I skimmed were just so meaty!

    anyhow, enjoyed this share – and just wanted to chime in with a few thoughts – and that is I believe this is how God leads us – it is with this inner pull to where we go and do this or that and we do not always need to know why – but we know what we need to do and we just do it.

    and also keep in mind that churches all have issues. Most in the U.S. are run like a business and many are just country clubs and societal bubbles that have some serious issues once you see more behind the facade. And so even though some churches are better than others – not all are all bad = if that makes sense = and even though I have a bad taste in my mouth for so many “off” churches – I do believe in the “body of Christ” and it is good and refreshing to come together – which is maybe why the “getting together” is under attack and tainted. and so while most churches in the US seem to be so “off” – I do believe there are things we can glean for seasons – or there are some where we can fit into in some ways – but it is not easy to find even a decent one – whew – IMHO

    Anyhow, my point is to just keep this in mind as you go to church – because none are perfect – and there are seasons for everything. and so what may “feed” you for a couple of years may not be what you need for the next phase of growth and life. But God will lead – he is so faithful and he has many good things in store. and he will lead you every day , every hour – every season.

    Nancy Beech wrote a book called “one hour on sunday” and in that book she talked about the impact that this small amount of time can have in our lives. I agree, but my only problem is that I think most churches are still are on a farm schedule and so I think we should move away from putting all this on Sundays – which is a dray that most families might need having down time and staying nestled in the sheets. I am a big advocate of Andy Stanley’s Saturday night services for a few reasons.

    Also, all religion is man made and the grace and simplicity of a relationship with Christ gets muddied from what most churches imbue and weave into a life of faith – a life of grace and simple beauty becomes murky and religious and that is what God was getting away from when he sent his son to begin with.

    okay, I will wrap up this already long comment to just say congrats on just doing what you know to do – and cheers to your wisdom and health. ❤ ❤

    love ya amiga!

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