it's not so much that I've lost my faith, I think I'm just redefining it.
in my past history with church, I tend to get really excited after becoming involved in a particular ministry and then after a series of failures (not telling you where your tithing is going, poor leadership, fakeness, focusing solely on politics and catering to those with perceived money, pastors finding their sermons online instead of doing the work themselves, finding out the leadership are arrogant jerks - or just dare I say human?), I leave and wallow and then find a new place to worship - but never feeling completely at home - and the cycle begins again. I believe it primarily happens for two reasons: 1) I burn out fairly quickly. Apparently, it's part of being a Disseminator. You get very excited and get people on board, you believe in the mission, but you have trouble finishing things out. 2) I place very heavy emphasis on relationships and people. I think I used to get sincere respect for leadership and putting said leadership on a pedestal, mixed up. It just got all hairy, because whenever someone got knocked off this high and mighty mountain where I had placed them in my mind, I couldn't really deal with that. Sometimes I would equate church problems with problems with religion. (i have tried to make strides in recent years to amend my flawed thinking. While I don't think I lean so heavily on the pastor/leadership on a pedestal, I still need to work on the respect thing...)
but this past year has felt different. I essentially went from being moderately involved at the vineyard, to nothing. I came to a place where it just wasn't smart for me to be in leadership, even on a very small scale. I don't regret that decision. And while I don't agree with every decision leadership makes at the vineyard, and maybe even some decisions anger me (I think that's probably normal to some degree?) I don't actually have a problem with the leadership. I'm not angry with anyone at church, I think they do some amazing things and honestly seek out what God is calling them to do. I'm proud of my friends and their authenticity. It just genuinely pains me to be a part of a church right now. For a while I continued to go, either to please others or just because I thought I would eventually get out of this church funk (again, I'm not frustrated at leadership like in the previous experiences). But I never did. And it just continued to get worse. This probably won't make sense, but I cannot adequately explain the deep seeded pain that flourishes when one of my old friends/ministry partners/whoever comes up and talks to me. (this isn't about being angry or upset at anyone. The actual building does not bother me, it's the people that fill it. They remind me of someone who I used to be. Happy and content. On a mission. With a purpose.) There is deep, deep pain. When someone calls and leaves a voicemail asking if I want to be involved in something I was totally into 12-16 months ago, I forget to return their phone call for days, because I try and block it out. Eventually, I remember and send a text instead. I've asked to be taken off e-mail lists, but I keep getting them somehow. I don't even read them anymore, I just hit delete.
it's just very different now. Where there was once joy, there is deep sorrow. I think back on all of the times that I was so excited about an idea or a ministry or just Jesus, and I feel ashamed. Foolish is really the best word. Everything I have ever done in the name of Jesus or for his sake seems foolish. There are a few sacred folks who are what I would consider to be "safe". I've realized lately that I tend to pop in on said folks when I'm needing to feel safe. And on a really good and rare day, I believe that they love me.
it's not that I don't believe in God anymore. I still pray on occasion, even though when I do, everything inside me wants to scream that I'm doing something wrong, or at least something I don't really believe in or understand fully. My core beliefs never really changed. I still believe that God created the universe (although I don't really give a rat's ass whether it was in 6 literal days or 6 million years. Or if Adam got bucked off of a dinosaur. Who cares? He created it. Deal with it), that we as a human race are really screwed up, and that Jesus literally died on a cross because we as a people needed a perfect sacrifice to suck up all our shittiness. That three days later he literally rose from the dead and that he will return. That he wasn't just some nice dude, that he wasn't just a prophet, that he is part of the Trinity and that there will be no others added to that. I believe that there will be a New Heaven and a New Earth as promised, but I don't really get what that's gonna look like. (and to be honest, it's pretty far down on the list of things that I really ponder over) Eternity scares me because I cannot fathom what that even looks like. I believe that we as Christ followers are called to give away a little bit of what we believe God has provided (although I continually wrestle with whether that must go to a local church or just doing God's work. I have church money issues. I always will). That we're called to be more than a seat filler, we are called to serve others, and not for some trophy or recognition, but because I think Jesus tangibly showed creation the way to serve and then called us to do the same. These are things that I have believed and built upon for 31 years. I really wrestled with some of them in my early to mid teenage years, but I feel rather secure in these core beliefs now.
okay, so here's what I think my problem is. The cause of my great sorrow... (Please bare with me, as I've been fleshing this thing out for a while, and could be wrong or simply only partially right.) It's not that I don't believe in God, I simply have trouble believing in a god who created me in his image. It's fairly easy for me to see God moving in the lives of my friends. To see the life and truth of a living god in their breath and movement and talents. I cannot see that in myself. I think I spent so many years serving a god that I believed existed, but not convinced that he wanted me. I think I did things because they got me excited or because I could see the good they would do or because I believed I was supposed to. The later is probably the most dangerous. There's a fine line between doing something because you're told to, (ie: parent telling you not to touch the hot stove. they love you enough to not want to see you get hurt) and doing something because at your core, you believe it to be true. I spent so many years trying to please a god who I believed saved me from eternal separation from him, but who I have never really believed loved me. Or really, even liked me. How could I honestly keep serving someone who I think barely even knows or just cares that I exist? How could I keep singing worship songs to a creator who messed me up and is probably disgusted by me? It is a painful place when you realize that what you have silently feared for most of your life becomes a reality. Even if it's just your reality.
i'm tired. Exhausted, really. I'm tired of sitting in church and listening and trying to act out something because I believe I'm supposed to. I think I've viewed God as my silent business partner for years. I know all of the right things to say and do. I know there's more to faith than crazy skits, big productions, wacky youth leaders, a "cool" pastor, attendance numbers and the building that you sit in. I just want to rest for a while and figure some stuff out. I can't continue on this path. I need to re-define who I am to me and who I am to Jesus.
and lastly, to anyone who I have hurt in the past; to anyone who was weary and I didn't get it; to anyone who just needed time to flesh some things out and I didn't allow for it; to anyone who I acted like I had it all together around - I am so sorry. I am terribly sorry if I hurt you. Please forgive me.
there. Glad I got that out, it's been brewing inside me for about 6 months now...