Why Church?

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Someone said something today which struck a chord with me and I want to think about it. The statement was something like ‘I went to many churches in my younger years but I haven’t found anything that has made me want to return‘.

In my younger years, I wanted to be in church every time the doors were opened. I wanted to worship with other people and I found God in church. I learned stuff about the Bible and my relationship with God developed.

I also saw things that made me uneasy. I saw inconsistency and hypocrisy in other people. I saw behaviours that weren’t what I thought they should be. I learned that people are not perfect. I also learned that I’m not either. I saw in the Bible that we were all in good company – the people I read about in there weren’t perfect either.

To be honest, I have become slowly more and more jaded and cynical. I have seen behind the scenes. Some of what I have seen, makes me feel like – just like all is not as it should be. On the other hand, I have seen in many a very high level of personal integrity, honesty and real-ness – and I take my hat off to those people and hope to learn from them.

But, this isn’t about other people. This is about me. Over time I have stopped wanting to be in church. I don’t go as often as I used to. When I am there, I feel more like an observer than a participant. I no longer feel like this is my ‘family’ or like I really ‘belong’ – something I once felt and treasured. I feel ‘odd’ because I don’t do a very good line in pretending and I don’t wear the appropriate masks.

So, should I be there at all? And if so, why?

I’m not trying to ‘judge’ imperfect people. I know that if I find a perfect church I shouldn’t join it because I would mess it up. I know that any group of human beings will always have issues. I ‘get’ that. I am OK with that. I once said that I would be able to settle in any church where there are real believers in Jesus Christ, and where God turns up regularly.

I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this.

It’s me.

I want to be part of something bigger than myself. I want to find God – I mean really, in everyday reality. I want to be honest and not feel like I need to ‘pretty’ anything up.

I once read a book called ‘Hunger for Reality’, by George Verwer. Maybe I need to read it again.

Maybe I’m just tired. Perhaps I would be better off with more energy. Perhaps I’m too idealistic and need to knuckle down and work on it. I don’t know.

I suspect that I will conclude that church is something I need to be an integral part of. But I need to know why. I need some direction and purpose in it. I have never been able to just be an ‘attender’ and I’m not that, even now.

I will work on it and get back to you….

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Honour? Or buy a Card?

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Yesterday was Mothers’ Day. I don’t think my kids really thought much about it – and to be honest I didn’t either apart from being forcibly reminded a few times.

Much of my mental energy was spent remembering sad stuff.

In 1997 I miscarried my first child, a little girl, at 21 weeks’ gestation. The first Sunday after that was Mothers’ Day. That was a tough day for me as I had expected to be a mother and yet that child was dead.

I also thought about my own mother who died a little over a year ago. She valued cards and kindness on Mothers’ Day. I still think of things I need to remember to tell her or ask her and it’s weird to remember that she will never be able to hear them. She will not see my children grow up and that makes me feel sad.

At church a small gift was handed to all of the women as they left. It’s funny that Mothers’ Day has become more of a celebration of womanhood.

A while ago, following Mothering Sunday in the UK (which is not really the same as the modern Mothers’ Day), I read an excellent post by Pam’s Perambulation called On How Churches Celebrate Mothering Sunday in which she discusses the ways in which this is done within a church context. She puts many own thoughts into words better than I can manage to while trying to see through my own mixed emotions. Both Mothers’ and Fathers’ Days elicit from me a mix of anger and cynicism, among a cocktail of other feelings. Maybe one day I will understand why I feel this way but I don’t yet.

God’s instruction is that we honour our Father and Mother. This means different things to different people and in different circumstances. The onus here is not on the parent who receives honour but on the offspring who gives honour.

The question of how to ‘honour’ parents when they are obviously ‘wrong’ was a common one when I was a teenager. The response that always made most sense to me and has stayed with me through all the years since, was this: To honour my father and mother means to do what I know they would want me to do if they knew the truth. I am aware of the potential to twist this simple statement but to me  it meant that I would endeavour to do what I believed was ‘right’ and ‘good’. In this way my parents would be brought honour whether they chose to accept it or not. Thankfully my parents, although not agreeing with me on many important-to-me things, appreciated my efforts and believed that I was a credit to them.

For me: Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day….. meh.

I honour my father and mother in the best ways I know how to.

I give to others in ways I can, when I can.

This is enough.