There’s something that’s been bothering me for a while and where better to air your grievances than on your blog?
First I feel I must give a little background and half a million disclaimers because lately I have had the misfortune of being misunderstood over and over again whether it’s by my husband or my dentist and I don’t want to offend anyone. In fact what I am going to say shouldn’t, so if it does, I’ve done a poor job of expressing myself (and not for the first time) OR you are an easily offended person :p
Background I have a friend who has recently decided to stop going to church. This isn’t the first friend to do this nor will it likely be the last, but with this friend our religion is what brought us together. She and I are complete opposites and in the world at large we’d probably never have gotten to know each other much less become best friends. We used to have long discussions about religion and faith and trials and mistakes. We went monthly to Washington, D.C. to attend the temple up there, and through the last 6 or so years, we have stayed close despite the physical distance between us as we have continued to share in these experiences together. When one of us is weak, the other is strong enough for both.
So when she stopped communicating with me as much as she used to I pieced together that either she’d made a mistake and was trying to work through it on her own, or she’d stopped going to church and didn’t want to have to admit it to me. The dead give away was that she stopped texting me random thoughts she’d heard from the pulpit on Sundays.
Back in November she came to town for a visit, we got to talking and she told me she was no longer going. For the record, I think she should go – not because I think everyone should attend church but because I know her, I know religion is a huge chunk of who she is. She didn’t get in to all the details of why she has stopped going but much of it has to do with the people where she lives, the church people where she lives. The way they treat her or talk to her and I have to admit, I agree with her that they are out of line. And I think I’ll get back to this later in the post. She did tell me that she has her own “church” on Sundays where she reads gospel related stuff and contemplates. She is my friend and that’s not based on her church attendance, nor should it ever be. So when she told me, I was sad for her, but not likely to turn my back on her as she feared I would.
Fast forward to about a month ago. She sent me an “article” *I use quotations because often these days ‘articles’ are really just blog posts aren’t they?* I understood the gist of this blog post and I agree – the main message was that people who go to church should still love people who have decided to leave church. That’s Christianity folks! LOVE EVERYONE! Even your enemies as the Bible says. So Christianity, truly practiced is no walk in the park. I apologize to anyone who has ever felt unloved by a proclaimed Christian, because they’ve got it wrong. Again, not the point of this.
What bothered me about the post is that the author used the word “comfortable” often. That word is used quite a bit when talking about religion. Some assert that religion is a thing we do because it makes us comfortable. So when this post said that some people stop attending church because they are no longer comfortable, I got a little annoyed. Not at the people who stop going to church – but that people think Religion equals comfort. Real religion does not make you comfortable. I just said in the last paragraph that in the Bible we are commanded to love our enemies. Not just the sweet old lady who lives in your neighborhood and makes you cookies, not just your friends, but the woman who gets under your skin because she is the perfect mom who seems to have more than enough time every day to teach her kids neuroscience while baking homemade bread and staying a size 0. Religion isn’t for the perfect person, it isn’t there to make you feel like there’s nothing you can improve upon, it isn’t there to tell you that you don’t need to push yourself to be more than you are today. It isn’t there to tell you that you don’t have to forgive every single jerk who does something mean or hurtful towards you or towards someone you love.
I can’t think of the last time I was truly comfortable at church. I’m not comfortable speaking in church (which I have to do from the pulpit about once a year). I’m not comfortable teaching teenagers (with their dead eyes and cell phone addiction). It’s not comfortable paying 10% tithing. It’s not comfortable fasting every first Sunday of the month. It’s not comfortable changing and growing. There’s little about the gospel that I find comfortable. But I love it. I love learning and growing and stretching myself. I love trying to be a better person. I believe in and love God and I know He reciprocates.
I don’t do it for the comfort because frankly comfort is not there. I do it because I believe it to be right and true. I do it because there is peace to be found in keeping the commandments (peace, not comfort). I live the life because it is the best life I can live. I don’t have to worry about so many different things because I chose early on in life not to do other things (if that makes sense). I live it because I believe it. Because I believe there is more than this life, that we are meant for more and that this life is about being tried and tested. Learning and growing. Stretching and reaching to be more like Christ. I do all the hard things because I believe they will lead me to becoming the person God knows I can become, the person he knows I have the potential to become. I have grown so much throughout my life because of my religion. I have had successes in college and in my career because of things I learned at church starting from a young age.
If you are religious, great, are you living it? Do you love the people at church as well as the ones who have decided to leave for whatever reason? If you are not religious, great, do what you know to be best for you to live the best life possible. But please, everyone, stop thinking that religion is about comfort because if you do that, you will never truly enjoy what it has to offer. You will be offended by something someone says to you and leave. You will think what you are asked to do is too hard and you will leave. You will so easily find excuses to not stay because you will be uncomfortable so often. To change and to grow involves getting out of your comfort zone. Religion is supposed to change us. Religion is active. In the words of Jimmy Doogan, “It’s supposed to be hard. The hard…is what makes it great.”
And yes, I just quoted a movie. I’m packing up my soapbox (for now).