This is not a story about communion. It should be, but it isn’t. And therein lays the problem.
The summer after my freshman year of college, I went back to my hometown to live with my parents for two months.
I wasn’t sure I would survive the summer.
I was depressed. Looking back, I can see that it was only the beginning of my struggle with depression, but at the time I felt like the world was ending. I felt numb and isolated and hopeless. I had just started self-injuring. I was angry and hurt with my parents and felt guilty about being angry and hurt. In short, I was a mess.
I came home to find that a girl I had been close to in high school, someone I witnessed to and invited to church, someone I had mentored spiritually and loved dearly had developed some pretty serious doubts. She had become friends with a group of atheists, and her faith had slowly succumbed to their questions. She had stopped attending church and started partying heavily. Everyone was incredibly worried about her, but no one seemed able to get through to her.
I remember sitting in my car with her one evening that summer as she cried and being angry. I couldn’t fix this for her, and I knew that she wanted me to. These were hard questions that she had to work through herself, but beyond that I was in no condition to help anyone at that point. I felt like I needed to be on spiritual life support. But our relationship had always been a bit lopsided, and there was no room for me to talk about my own struggles, my own doubts and fears. I will always wonder how things would have been different if I had been able to approach her on more equal ground.
Church makes me nervous because so much of it seems like window-dressing. It’s easy to look holy on Sunday morning. It’s easy to create a certain atmosphere and gain a certain kind of response. A life of faith sounds easy in a pre-packaged thirty minute sound-bite.
Real life is a lot messier than Sunday mornings might lead you to believe.
For years, my parents have called me every Sunday afternoon and asked if I attended church that morning. I no longer understand what the big deal is. I was raised in church. My father was a minister, so we were there every time the doors were open. I grew up learning that real Christians attended Sunday morning service faithfully. Because it’s important.
But now, looking back, it’s hard for me to get why it’s important. What on earth does a two hour dog and pony show add to my spiritual life? If church was about living in community, about honestly struggling together, about living transparently and serving each other in love, then I would understand. Maybe I would even go, because that sounds like something that might change my life.