Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bit by bit

Over a year ago, we left the Church we had been attending for the better part of 3 years.

Leaving a Church is rarely pretty. Especially if you are open about your reasons why.

The reasons were numerous: an loudly bigoted/intolerant youth pastor (REASON #1); the church was becoming more and more vocal about political candidates (everyone has a right to vote, but I go to church for reasons other than an education in modern day politics); we felt constant pressure to volunteer, and there was a LOT of gossip in the volunteer circles. Way too middle school, way too much of the time.

Despite those reasons, it was not an easy decision. These people had held our hands and prayed with us throughout our long and arduous adoption. They celebrated with us when we brought our sons home.

But as the months went by, and our boys began to show more and more "problems," we found less and less support. People either wanted to hear all happy glowing reports. By offering: well, it only took him 2 hours to clean up the fecal matter he smeared all over my van, that can kill a conversation in about 0.1 seconds flat. No one wanted to hear the truth.

Some people thought we should be able to pray RAD right out of our child.

You RAD Moms are probably peeing in your pants over that suggestion. But No Peeing! It's not allowed at your computer desk!

Seriously, though, we'd listen and think, uh, hello? If RAD was something that could be prayed out of a kid, don't you think we'd have eliminated RAD by now?

Well, then we weren't praying right. I even had someone go as far as insinuate that we did not know how to pray correctly. That there are healing and praying secrets in the Bible, but we'd need to sign up for a class taught by a heavily anointed member to learn them.

Silly me. If I only knew how to pray correctly, then I could heal my RAD kid.

That one still gets me feeling a bit riled up.

So, we left. And the moment we did, I felt a huge weight lifted from my chest.

I spent the better part of a year feeling greatly disenchanted by our entire church experience. The entire thing had left me really pissed. I spent a lot of time questioning whether or not it was even worth going out there to find something new.

I kind of came up with a list of 'musts' in my head. Things like:
* No pressure to join or volunteer
* Respect for privacy
* No one calls each other "You awesome Woman of God" or "You Godly Family Man" crap
* No constant, judgmental tsk-ing references to people who were "no longer on fire for God."
* A curricula-driven Youth Program with background checks

After several months of looking and attending several Churches in our area, I'm pretty sure we found our Church.

We've now attended for several months. So far, so good. I can't believe what a relief it is to go to church and feel renewed coming out of it.

The most recent sermon has had my wheels turning all week.

This past Sunday, the pastor opened by explaining that when a person falls in love, the body releases a cocktail of hormones which create that "falling in love" experience. You all know what these hormones do to a person; we've all watched someone in that glow-y, dreamlike trance of new love (or we've been that person ourselves.)

The hormone surges last 3-12 months. After which, the relationship likely be cemented enough to move past the hormone-induced love/lust to the point where a relationship matures and couple work to grow the relationship.

Joining a church/becoming an adult Christian, a person often experiences the very same rush of hormones. This is evident when someone sees a person and remarks: "that guy is on fire for the Lord!"

But, after a period, usually 3-12 months, that person may no longer seem "on fire." They've calmed down.

There is nothing wrong with this. Churches that preach that we should all be "on fire" are preaching a message that goes against the very human-ness that God made in us.

When, in actuality, it is okay that the embers have cooled. This is when our relationship with God can deepen. This is when we grow our spiritual faith.

Part of growing our spirituality, he offered, is realizing that at the very core, we are sinners.

Growing as a Christian, it means that we don't strive to be perfect. Because that will never happen. And pretending that we can be on-fire all the time is as unrealistic as expecting two spouses to always have the "butterfly in your stomach 'in love'" feeling 24/7.

What it means is that we strive to survive in a better fashion, bit by bit, throughout our life challenges.

Over the course of time, we grow. We face our daily challenges and obstacles and we try to be a little more patient, a little kinder, a little less judgmental, a better listener, etc.

It was weird, being in a church where the pastor is telling us: don't be perfect. Don't worry if you don't feel like you are "on fire." Just focus on growing, bit by bit.

I like that message.

I think about that a lot now when I look at my boys. Children with attachment and trauma issues may heal, and then grow, but it is done at such a slow pace. Sometimes so slow that you are standing still. Or moving back in time.

I don't have to be "on fire" in the way I parent them. Because let's face it: My "in love" hormones that propelled me through the adoption were extinguished shortly after their homecoming.

I don't have to be perfect in the way I parent them. I don't have to know how to pray the right way. I don't have to employ the latest catch phrases.

But I can grow bit by bit. More patience. More empathy. More grace. More kindness. More acceptance. I can work on offering it to them.

I can work on offering it to myself. Bit by bit.


geralyn said...

I love your eloquence with the written word. Great post and filled with thoughtful, provoking sentiments. It's amazing how much difference a church and especially a cool pastor can make for the whole 'religious' experience. Glad your feeling a little more at home at your new church. Love you oodles!

Sally Ann said...

I love this, this is fantastic. I feel like a black women in church, nodding and releasing words of affirmation. thank you sister.


P.S. I almost made it to the post office to mail your jacket today ;)

Aves @ Call of the Phoebe said...

absolutely true :)!!

Nobody said...

Preach it sister!

ManyBlessings said...

Holy cow did I need to hear this.

Tara - SanitySrchr said...

Can I have the address to this church? I'm promptly relocating! In all seriousness though, this is exactly the right message at the right time. I also have begun to read Anne Lamott (recommended).

bbbunch said...

It makes all the difference. Our pastor once said "the biggest turnoff toward Christianity are Christians" - I wholeheartedly agree!

:)Love you!

Rose Anne said...

I hear everything you are saying.
everything cannot be fixed by prayer or we would not need to do it so often....
when I pray for a family it is for the parents to have strength to find the right answers for that child , it might not be the same answer for another one .
I think you finally found the right church for your family..
Thank God!
Rose Anne

mama bear said...

We had to leave a church we'd been very involved in (I led youth group, husband led worship) for ten years. It was so hard. I was not really open about it with members of the church when we left three years ago, but I did have enough courage to write about it. It was published here:

We have found a great church who supports monthly missions to Haiti. Our family fits in nicely. Hang in there!