on owning my faith

Posted: July 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

Near the end of my marriage, we made a last-ditch effort at many months of counseling.  One night when I was feeling especially self-righteous and irate, I launched into a bit about his failure to attend church with me.  “I want to go to church, but it’s HARD going on my own, and shouldn’t he be going with me?”  The truth was that I WASN’T going to church, for the most part.  I was mostly just feeling sorry for myself that he wasn’t interested in going with me.  The counselor listened, mostly without comment, while the three of us were in the same room.

But later that same night, he met with each of us individually.  When it was MY turn, he didn’t wait long to call bullshit on me, regarding the church bit.  The counselor was, like me, a believer.  My ex was at least not into church – his believing or not, I’ll leave where it belongs, between him and God.  The counselor was kind but firm in his reproach. 

How was my fit-pitching going to draw this man to Christ?

Why was I muddying the waters like this?

Since when was my faith anyone’s responsibility but mine?

If I REALLY wanted to be in church, wouldn’t I be there, whether he went or not?

He was right, of course, and I knew it before he was even done speaking.  What I was doing there was not fair, and I was certainly not taking ownership of my faith and its practice. 

I thought about that this morning, as I took communion in church. 

In my church, communion is a self-serve deal, up at the front, with an invitation to partake at any point in the service.  It looks like a very nice thing, for entire families that go up together, or for couples that do it “just the two of them” in a rather intimate way.  Though I had seen this way of offering communion in many places, I had never bothered to consider what I thought about it until I came to Mercy.  My son-in-law, who is a seminary student, was quick on his first visit there with me to notice it and to express his thought that communion should be something we serve to each other, rather than an individual self-serve process. 

My son-in-law is one of my very favorite people, but I wondered if he was having too many opinions on this point.  Did it matter?  I was resolved to keep an open mind, because I love so very many things about my church.  

Over time, I have come to pretty much agree with his assessment, though I understand that sometimes and for some people, an individual, “just me and God” interaction might be the very thing. 

What has brought me to where I am has been the business of navigating this as a single person.  There are few places that singlehood feels more painful or awkward sometimes than the very family-oriented place that is church in general (I don’t speak of any particular congregation on this point – I mean the greater church.)  I feel like my church does a substantially better job of not making the singles feel left out than many other places I have been.  But communion done this way…that one is rough for me.

I don’t WANT to go up there myself.  I don’t WANT to serve myself.  I don’t WANT to make that lonely, self-conscious walk up the aisle and back down it, feeling like everyone is noticing that I have no one with me.  That rears up in me big time, and so I haven’t gone up to serve myself.  I have gone when friends invited me to go with them. I have gone when my fiance has been here to go with me, now that I have one of those.  🙂

The guys in my accountability group at work have monitored my church situation closely ever since I moved back from Chicago – they pushed me HARD, when I was church shopping, to find a church and get busy plugging in.  When they learned I wasn’t going up for communion because of this feeling, they pushed me to speak with the pastors about it. 

It’s a good idea, speaking up.  Except I didn’t think I should (and Karen is darn stubborn about not doing what she doesn’t think she should!), because really I KNOW BETTER than to sit my butt in the chair, focusing on things that make me feel bad, rather than taking responsibility for my own faith and just walking up there, or grabbing a friend and walking up there together.  Not all answers are “someone/something else must change.”  Most often, the answer is, “It is ME that must change.”  I have lived and worked in leadership roles enough to know that I didn’t have an excuse here – that this part of me that was balking at the way things are done is very related to the part of me that pitched a fit with the marriage counselor. 

In truth, I’ve been stubbornly biding my time.  I’ve gone forward when others have invited me (and oh, how grateful I have been for those who have done so!), but I haven’t pushed myself out of my comfort zone.  I wasn’t about to go to the pastors and ask them to change this FOR ME, Karen Who Knows Better and Certainly Could Do Better But Stubbornly Won’t.  But after my upcoming wedding, my plan was to go and make a plea on behalf of all the OTHER single people – to ask if we couldn’t maybe once in awhile do it differently, for THEIR sakes, since at that point with a husband there and present, there would be nothing left for me to gain, so it would be a hopefully unselfish plea.

And then came this morning, when God apparently decided that it was time for me to listen to HIM. 

During the worship music segment at the end of the service, I definitely felt pushed to go up there.  I stood, considering, and with much less resistance or resentment than usual.  While I did so, I noticed:  there was quite a parade of people going up. 

Some of them were couples.

But a lot of them were on their own.  Some married folks whose spouses weren’t in attendance, or were serving in the worship.  But also singles.  I never noticed so many singles coming for communion before.  I tend to close my eyes a lot during worship, so maybe it has been happening all along.  But if so, I’ve missed it.  It felt like God arranged a parade of individual people to march up there and show me my heart. 

So I was singing, and listening, and watching, and pondering.  And then He asked me, “Do you suppose there is anyone else in this room who might share your reluctance?” 

Oh man.  Well, that was easy.  YES.  I know a number of people who might…at least one of them was up front taking her communion, even as I thought it. 

“So, what if you decided to stop being All About Karen?  What if you decided to take communion with one of them?” 

And immediately I saw how stubborn and self-centered I have been on this one.  Immediately I saw how I have sat there, refusing to go up, when I could have been grabbing a different friend every week and going there.  But you understand, I would have had to stop making it ALL ABOUT KAREN.  And until He decided to poke me, I was apparently never going to get off that focus.

One of my favorite things about God is that He can show us what royal turds we have been, and not make us feel like…well…turds.  His conviction is freeing, healing, empowering.   It doesn’t pound us into snot.  It makes us feel MORE precious, not less so. 

So it was with a repentant-and-glad heart that I quickly went on up to do communion with a friend, and as I did so, the wiser part of me was just shaking her head that we’ve had to be so silly and so stubborn about this for so long.  That poor wiser part of me is very saddled by the selfish ass part.  What an interesting mix, is this “we” that I am.  LOL 

So I guess I am done plotting and planning for ways to make the system change.  Once again, as He most often does, He has shown me that I need to tend to the business of change in ME and get my hands off the business of the system.  That’s pretty much always the message, no matter how easy it is to decide that my mission on earth is to change stuff around me. 

It’s an inside job.  Pretty much always, always, always.  AN INSIDE JOB. 

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