Iím a Bible study drop out. Iím sick to death of church. I feel more fake around my ďBible study girlsĒ than anyone else in my life. Last year I was a small group leader. People tell me I should do womenís ministry. How can I, when I feel like corporate fellowship is shallow and contrived?
Iím sick to death of cute clothes and shiny flats.
Iím sick to death of name tags and place cards and frilly coffee.
Iím sick to death of perfect hair and matching purses and smart-looking workbooks.
Iím sick to death of small talk and polite sharing.
Iím sick to death of angled prayer request and sappy guitar songs.
Iím sick to death of assigned greeters with coral colored lips and childcare volunteers and homemade cookies.
Iím sick to death of everything that all church looks like.
I am sick to death of making time for one more volunteer opportunity.
Iím sick to death of being plied for my spare minutes, my spare change, my spare pens. Iím sick to death of bigger parking lots, potlucks, church gymnasiums and special VBS props.
Iím sick to death of big screens and four services that say the same thing over and over and over and over...
Forever, I have believed conventional church had a place. Forever I have believed that fellowship with godly women is essential. For each of our military moves I have related my loneliness with not having found a ďhomeĒ church. So where does this repulsion come from?
I am almost scaring myself. I had already signed up for a Beth Moore study. I had already started emailing with my BFFís about which study we were taking, where we would sit and see each other, how busy our summers have been. I had already emailed the committee leader promising to be a bubbly, name tag slapping, coral lipped greeter. And then I quit.
I just quit.
And the first Tuesday, when I should have been in Bible study came and went. I noticed the time, 10 a.m. and realized that my BFFís were probably searching up and down plush rows searching for me - me - the quitter.
For one second, I imagined the twittering among rows. ďYou know, sheís been withdrawn this summer.Ē
ďI wonder if sheís OK? I wonder if she and her husband are fighting?Ē
ďDo think sheíll still be involved in ministry and growing? Iíd hate to see her grow away from the Lord.Ē
ďYou know how important Bible study and fellowship is.Ē
For a split second, I worried that they would all pity me or tisk-tisk in disappointment. My cell phone erupted in bleeps and bings of texts, ďWhere are you?Ē
Where was I?
I was standing beneath a broad shedding tree on a cracked sidewalk a mile from my home. The grinning puppy at my feet was ridiculously happy that had chosen a walk with him over the more ďperfectĒ option. The edges of fall lapped at my goosebumps. It was 50 degrees when I woke up. I had brewed a slow cup of coffee, opened my windows, plugged in Pandora radio and sat at the feet of Jesus for an hour and half. I hadnít gotten ready - in fact, I hadnít even showered by the time Bible study was letting out.
That wasnít my first rebellious act - the first sign of my awakening. My husband and I skipped church two weeks in a row recently. Instead, we opted for a slow morning curled next to each other with cups of banana nut coffee. Late, we watched a sermon online.
We went back one week later. I was afraid, certain that I had probably missed something life changing while I was playing hooky. People must have been whispering that our seats were empty. Or were they?
Surely, I should feel rotten about missing worship. Then why did I feel like my quiet worship at home had been so much more real and fulfilling?
Later that afternoon, after I had skipped Tuesday morning Bible study, I started getting emails from sweet girlfriends. I donít mean to imply that they are fake, but I think they are duped. I think most of the conventional American church has drunk the Kool-aid. I think my stupor is suddenly wearing off. Iím waking up, and thatís terrifying when everyone who validated my religious life is still content in slumber.
ďAbby, Bible study is right up your alley! You of all people can make time for this. I know youíre spending time with Jesus, but quiet time is with God. Fellowship is with others.Ē
Really? Is Jesus not enough real, tangible enough for me to fellowship with him? And I am sick to death of making time for things. If thereís not enough time in the 24 hours of my God-given day, do I have the right to try to make time for other things on my personal agenda - the agenda I think God should have?
Iím sick to death of begging, ďGod what is it you would have me do? What is my calling?Ē And then charging off on my righteous steed to analyze headlines, and argue about conservative politics and seek out my next opportunity to ďbe there for someone.Ē As if my calling, my purpose were so incredibly unique that if I miss it the world is doomed.
The going notion is that Christians must determine what God has called them to do. How can we serve the Lord? How can we minister? Who needs us?
Hereís the rub: The driving force behind each of those questions is pride. Yep, that ugly invader of Paradise is alive and well and thinly disguised behind our masks of ministry.
What if we quit isolating othersí needs and targeting our resources to help those ďless fortunateĒ? What if we quit pointing out where we can be of assistance and creating repeatable, efficient programs to meet them? What if need doesnít want to be met with charity? What if we met need with need and then humbly shared from the place of need?
Remember the widow and her two mites? The poor, marginalized woman gave out of her nothing, gave what she had without show or pledge card. And after, Jesus didnít run out and give her coin. Jesus didnít instruct his disciples to buy her a meal or cover her with their cloak or take her into their home.
Did you ever notice that Jesus didnít establish a program or system for preaching? Jesus didnít seek out the hungry, lame, blind, leper or dying. Jesus didnít set up a podium, send out fliers or provide transportation. Jesus went to the people and sent out his disciples, plain, poor, ordinary men and women. He never called people to him. He never announced a special message or a seeker sensitive service.
I feel like I have woken up to a screaming alarm clock. Itís the kind of startled wakening when you donít really remember where you are. I have been jarred awake and Iím hungry. Iím starving for something real, something new.
I want to be with real people. Real people who KNOW they are hungry. I want to touch and be touched. I want to bleed and be bled on. I want to break crusty bread and sit on the floor. I want to hear whatever someone has to say, not ask them prescribed questions that relate to eternity. I want to be needed and I want to be fully free to need. I want to do relationship.
And I think thatís how the church in America was sung to sleep. She heard the same consoling music over and over. She dined on lush foods and never bit into something so bitter it made her sick, purged her heart and made her hungrier than ever before.
She moaned about scratches and discomforts. She has never had to walk on raw, blistered feet. She has never known pain that prevents sleep. Maybe thatís another privilege of pain. We bleed to know that weíre alive.