I listen to stories of friends. They tell me of altercations with husbands, lovers, strangers who speak into their lives as if they have authority …. when they don’t know “the whole story.” And these friends use wisdom and they defend themselves. They offer quick replies and stand up for what they believe in. They are not rude. They are not unkind. They choose words carefully and speak succinctly and they are firm.
They call me on the phone and we talk. We sit on the couch and share coffee. I run into them at the grocery store. They tell me their tales and I listen to them. And I am absolutely awed. I have such strong, brave, wise relationships in my life. Often, I ask, “Did you really say that? REALLY?” Their words are hard for me to grasp. They thought of THAT reply, THAT quickly … right there on the spot?
I tell them time and again,
“I admire you. You are so brave.”
“You are my hero.”
A few days ago, I found myself in a conversation where I had to defend myself.
I doubt my words meant anything to the person that I was talking with
but they were brave and strong and big for me.
I almost trembled.
I remember when I first read this quote. My eyes teared.
Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.
I used to be quick to speak, but now, I wait.
I have to process. I have to let things soak in. I need think it over.
I want to consider why the person said what they did.
I want to ponder every angle and then respond in love.
Often, I don’t respond at all. Some things are better left unsaid.
And sometimes it’s just too exhausting to explain yourself
to someone who might not “get it” anyway.
If I have explained the situation to you three times in three different ways,
and you still can’t “hear” me, I’m not going to keep talking …
especially if you’re going to respond to me
by yelling, using exclamation marks or you’re going to blame me for the mess you have created.
I have finally learned that you can’t fix or help some relationships.
I’d rather just be “wrong” in your eyes.
This ruminating, though …
means that I’m sometimes speechless in conversations.
I find myself thinking just fifteen minutes later, “I should have said ____________,”
or the next day, asking myself “Why didn’t I think of THAT??”
I said just the right thing
at just the right time.
I was so proud of myself.
You see, I haven’t been to church in a while. I was not raised in church, but when I was in high school, I was invited to church. I learned of God’s love and Christ’s redemption and asked God to show Himself real to me at a youth rally. I have attended church since then. We have moved over and over through the years. Finding a church was always high priority for me when we moved.
But, since my divorce, going to church has been difficult … even disheartening.
There are so many things that I hear in church that I find difficult to swallow.
All of those Proverbs 31 lines remind me of what I’m not.
Those verses by Paul in the New Testament remind me that I wasn’t good enough.
And the women that surround me with their husbands and children, remind me that I am alone.
Layer this with a child who doesn’t believe in God
and my sweet but feeble van ….
and you have more of a “whole picture.”
So, several months ago, I began to spend my mornings at home watching inspirational television shows
and working on creative projects. I take notes. I pray for guidance that God would show me ways
that the words I am hearing would apply to my life. I’ve even had a friend join me some mornings.
So, when I say that I am not going to church, I am NOT saying that I have turned from God.
God and I are good … in so many ways.
And yes, I know that scripture says that we should not forsake the gathering together with other believers. But, there are also verses about husband and wife making the decision to refrain from physical intimacy for a time. There are verses about women staying home for a time after giving birth. And there are verses about fasting food, as well.
Just like staying home to nurse a broken leg is okay,
or staying home to care for a little one with a stomach bug is acceptable,
I have given myself permission to stay home on Sunday mornings
and worship in a way that is fitting for me right now.
I see my choice as a temporary fast of the organized gathering of Christians in a large steepled building.
It is not a permanent choice, it is a temporary one, but it is where I am.
And I am okay with it.
That having been said,
I recently I ran into a beautiful, sweet friend whom I adore. She is gentle and kind, loves the Lord and serves Him deep and well. She is very active in church, Sunday School and a youth evangelism group. She has an amazing husband whom I also adore.
As we talked in the store, we did a little catch up and she mentioned,
as we were parting, that she had missed me at church.
She asked, “Where are you going to church?”
Because I have already given this much thought, I had a response
but I was floored that I was able to speak the words.
I said, “I’m not going to church right now.”
She very-teasingly shook her finger and said, “Shame on you.”
Without hesitation, I replied, “Oh, no. God and I are good.
I’m just not going to church to worship right now.”
Even as those words left my mouth, I was in shock!
Had I just said that out.loud?
Had I just shared my position without embarrassment
and some long-winded defense to try to get someone to be pleased with my position?
I became my own hero … for a few brief moments.
In the same way that I don’t understand agoraphobia,
she probably wouldn’t understand why I’m not going to church.
But, her not understanding my motivation to stay home
shouldn’t cause me shame.
I refuse to be ashamed. I am not ashamed.
I have made this decision and it is a good one for me right now.
I share this story because it is a good example of me learning to say, “I don’t care.”
I am working hard to “own” my beliefs, ideas and motivations
even.if they don’t please others.
I want to be brave.
I want to be brave to say the things that defend
my ideas, my place or my being.
I want to speak my truth even if
my hands tremble,
my knees knock,
my lip quivers,
or my voice shakes.
And sometimes I have actually been
surprised by my own words.