Ben and I had the chance to visit our friend Beth yesterday, who just happens to be the mother of two of our good friends, and a highly respected spiritualist, at least to Ben and I. She came swooping into our lives shortly after I had major adult breakthroughs and was in desperate need of a mother figure who validated my newfound stances in life. She's always such an affirming speaker, and one of those rare breed who has the ability to interpret exactly what you are trying to say. She, too, has had struggles with what church means, what Christianity is, how to express it in her daily life, and yet with the benefit of more years than me, so she's much more at peace and much more able to express her thoughts.
I have struggled with church. Ben and I have tried (before we met, separately attempted) to find a church that expresses who we are. I hear my father's response to that statement - "You don't go to church to find you, you go to church to find God". Yes, dad, I hear you. What I have tried to mean with that sentiment is, I want to find a place that has worked as hard as I am to be healthy, honest and open with the world and with God. I have yet to find one here where I live. Whenever I have attended church within the past few years, I feel a sense of loss, or boredom, or at the least, disconnection. One visceral last impression was a church Ben and I attended where 5 minutes in, I emotionally and physically shut down. I had an overwhelming urge to cry and was afraid if I moved, or said anything, I'd burst out into my very uncomfortable ugly cry - the gasping for air, sobbing/moaning mess that I only do when alone - NEVER - in public. It was the one and only time I have driven Ben away, literally, with my inability to communicate or process my feelings.
Church used to mean a place of peace, where I sat with friends who were comrades in life - we knew each other and loved each other with a desperation to always prove how much we loved and supported each other. I don't have that here - in church at least. I have it outside of church, through conversations with friends who may or may not be Christian - through emails and phone calls and blogs. I have it with Ben, my life friend, who understands and says so succinctly what takes me 20 minutes to spew out.
I have always felt this is enough. I felt if I ever do feel the need to return to church, I'd do it, and would find a place that was home. The only reason I still hear those voices in my head is because my parents feel I can't possibly be a believer while not attending church. I'm missing that check in the laundry list of being approved as a Christian and one worthy of attention.
While expressing all of this to Beth, she politely listened and then replied, "If you think the church is going to be a healthy place, you're mistaken - church isn't for the healthy people, church is for the sick. You won't find God in church." The light clicked on immediately and to my shock, I felt so relieved. RELIEVED to hear someone finally say it. God isn't in church - I find him in posters explaining disorders of the macula (a part of the eye) in Ben's ophthalmologist's office. I find him in conversations with friends when they echo what I feel, and I don't feel alone or misunderstood anymore. I find him in therapy sessions where the therapist tells me, "If there's anything I want you to gain from these sessions, is to trust yourself and your instincts and your decisions". I find him when I'm living on being the best me I can be, because he made me to be me. I make God proud when I am me and am honest.
Right now, I don't need church to show me God - he's doing a better job than any one place can do. I'm listening to him and that's all I need.