I’ve been out of church for about four years. As I’ve said before, I spent a lot of time for a lot of years in church, and I eventually walked away with a bad taste in my mouth. I haven’t been back since.
This morning my best friend asked me why I never said anything positive about the church on this blog. Surely it couldn’t have been all bad. I told him that I had no intention of stroking the ego of an institution that has tooted its own horn for the past two millennia instead of doing the job it was given.
But he’s right too. It wasn’t all bad. Some of my most cherished memories involve church in some capacity.
The church became a family to me. My parents split up my sophomore year of high school and my dad started taking us to church. He became the staff janitor there and my brother and I were up there with him almost daily. He chose his hours, so he built his schedule around our activities. It didn’t happen over night, but at some point it became my haven. I wanted answers and comfort for my hurt, and the church offered me that.
I miss the camaraderie too. There’s just something about having something in common with others. It links you, even if very loosely. You put two fans of the same team in the same room and, unless there is bad blood between them, they’ll talk. In church you have an entire value system in common, which builds very close bonds. That’s part of why I left – my own value system was changing, and I felt that I didn’t have much in common with everyone else anymore.
I miss the optimism. I’m all for being a realist, and I see the appeal in being a pessimist, but thousands of years of observation tell us that optimism makes for happier groups. Besides, it just feels good to be around happy people. The world is mostly pessimistic. Someone at work is always complaining about something, the news doesn’t have enough puppy stories, and it turns out that the desire for money actually causes more stress than pleasure. So being happy with a bunch of other happy people rocks.
Fair warning – this last one is just my pride, but I feel if I’m going to act like I’m being candid on this blog, I might as well be. I miss being ‘the scholar.’ Pastors used to stop in the middle of their sermons to ask me what a certain Hebrew word was, or where a paraphrased passage was found because they couldn’t remember. Again, it felt good. Absolutely prideful, and I don’t miss it often, but sometimes I still miss it.
Part of me understands the pride too. I spent lot of time learning Hebrew and memorizing scripture back then. I put the effort into it. I never was a fan of watching someone work for sixteen years to perfect their guitar playing only to have them say “oh, it’s all God man,” when you complimented on their playing. Dude, you’ve played your fingers bloody. I think you get some of the credit.
Don’t worry. It’s the very least of the things I sometimes miss about church. I just wanted to be honest.
So, there you are Peter. Thanks for making me think. Those are some of the things I miss about the church. I’m sure others will come to me. Perhaps I’ll periodically update this.
NOTE: I’m glad I proofread this post. A few lines up where I say “I just wanted to be honest,” it said “I just wanted to be awesome.” Freudian slip much?