“Dragged to church.” Have you ever heard that phrase? My Pastor actually uses a form of it in a sermon. He says he had a drug problem as a child — his parents drug him to church!
I was never dragged to church. In fact, I did not grow up going to church. I never knew I was missing anything until about my 9th grade year. A friend of mine lived a life that had God’s light shining through it. At the time, I had no idea what she had that I didn’t, but I knew I wanted it. I didn’t ask this friend, so I didn’t learn at that time, and even now I have not found a way to share with her that she is part of the main reason I have a relationship with God now. Years later, when our oldest was in junior high school, I got nervous. I was a young parent, and none of my friends had kids as old as our son. The world, including the imminent threat of high school, was a scary place. I knew I needed more than my husband or I could muster in our parenting abilities to get our son through high school. It was at this point that I reached out to find a church. I got more than I bargained for; I found a church, an extended family, and a lot of support for my parenting needs.
Fast forward 10 years, and I found myself left alone, devastated, heartbroken and unable to function. I spent the first hours face down on the floor sobbing and begging GOD to help me. I think I envisioned GOD reaching down and picking me up and carrying me away (okay, maybe that is just what I wished for.) I knew I wanted the pain to stop. I knew I wanted my marriage to succeed and flourish, not to die and end.
I spent many hours, days, and weeks, even, in time alone with GOD. Sometimes that time alone was due to me feeling like I had no one else. You see, both of my parents were deceased, and my best friend had just walked out on our marriage. Some of that alone time was due to the fact that I did believe HE was the only one that could help me.
At this point of desperation, I had many issues to deal with, among them what others think. I was terrified people would know I was getting divorced. I was terrified people would know my marriage failed. I was terrified that people would know I was all alone. See a pattern here? I am still in the process of learning that what others think should not matter so much.
But because of this fear, I was afraid to go to church. I had been at this church for 10 years, although my ex had stopped going a year or so before he left me, and therefore, I found myself not attending regularly. I still felt that most of the congregation knew me, knew us.
I think the first time I ventured in alone was due to the prodding of my children; they wanted to go to church, so I needed to take them. I didn’t tell anyone I was going. I signed the kids in and sent them to their classes, and I silently walked into the back of the worship center and found a seat. I was not in my usual seat, or even my usual area. I did not want anyone to see me or talk to me. I just wanted to sit, listen, and leave.
That is exactly what I did, week after week, whether my children were with me or not. I sat, I listened, and I left…oh yeah, and I cried. But I forced myself to attend every single Sunday. Every week I cried. Whether it was my fear of being talked about or pitied, or whether the sermons really spoke to me, I cried. Of course, I like to think it was the sermons speaking to me!
I am not sure how much time passed before I realized no one was talking about me being there alone, or crying. No one was pitying me because I was alone or crying. But eventually, I looked up when I walked into church. Then I made eye contact, followed by a smile or two. I still sat alone for a long time, as I wanted me being at church to be a time where I was really listening to GOD.
But by then, it was a choice to sit alone, and not an act of desperation. Even then, it was short-lived. I would run into someone I knew, and they would ask me to sit with them.
Today, I may go to church alone, but I am not alone. I still sit. I still listen. And I still cry, though now my tears are for very different reasons.
Photo credit: Madeline Linahan