Thursday, August 8, 2013

Day 9: The Son

A few years ago I thought I had found my church. After years of feeling slightly overwhelmed by large congregations and the group identity that often accompanies them, I stumbled upon a house church. This church was being led by a pastor whose heart was rooted in Jesus, and not the various factions his birth, and subsequent death, led to. For just a few weeks I gathered in a small apartment amongst fast friends and random strangers to go back to the beginning of the story. We broke bread together and gave testimony of God's presence in our lives just as the earliest Christians did. Since I had fallen in love with the pastor along with the church, when the relationship ended I struggled to reconcile what I'd lost. A friend's community church provided solace during those first few Sundays when I sat weeping silently in the absence of romantic love, but surrounded by the sanctity of God's love. I moved away shortly thereafter and soon returned to a feeling of distance between what Christ represented in his life, and what religion has done with these truths. Since that time I have recognized the presence of God in a number of gathered moments (both in church and beyond), but have not been able to bring myself to return on a regular basis.

In the past year I have been depleted and raw in a way that is utterly and profoundly new. Now, I'm no stranger to anxiety and depression - but I sense that what's going on lately is largely a result of near constant movement and a depleted immune system thanks to various ailments incurred while living abroad. Here I am with a dream of a job based on service and empowering those in need (in other words, what I understand Jesus stood for), but my body and personal faith has become so depleted it feels constantly threatened by my own exhaustion. As I settle into new rhythms and opportunities to take care of myself and rebuild my strength, I have been humbled by a call towards faith I haven't felt in quite some time. 

Historically, my faith has always revolved around the Holy Spirit, whose near constant presence I've felt throughout my entire life. This sense of a higher power is so profoundly emmersed in love as a counter to the desolation of human existence and impact on each other and planet, that I can't help but believe. As I was exposed to the Christian paradigm fairly early on, it has always been my lens, and I have never been able to find any fault with Jesus. But my distrust (and frankly, distaste)for many Christians has made it a strange and often solitary path - never wanting to align myself with the aspects of faith that condemn so many people I cherish, while at the same time knowing that my life depends on the ability to rest in salvation - not just for myself, but for this devastating world we live in.

And so in these months of renewal and rebirth, I sense a need to get to know the Son - the name upon which so much division and angst is born, but who for me is starting to provide incredible comfort and care in this desert of a time. As has often been my experience, as soon as I open that sliver of my heart and mind, provision flows forth, and I have once again found my church. 

Since returning to the US this summer, my parents and I go to a book group studying the underground church with a handful of senior citizens every Wednesday night. I am brought to tears nearly every week as these beautiful souls despair over the state of the world, and the distance our religion has created between itself and the God we believe in. We talk weekly about Jesus and his disciples' "radical hospitality." We explore how the Christian "church" was founded on inclusivity and service. For it was this that made the early Christians stand out - not their proclamations or commitments to do good. 

One of the women who attends each week is caught in the struggle of "where to start?" and "what does it matter if no one will listen?" I studied her profile today as she repeated these questions, her soft gray hair twisted up atop her head and the lines of many decades framing the pain in her eyes. I told her afterwards of the philosophy that first took me to Africa - that we can't fix all the hurt in the world, but if each of us is open to doing something - the world will change. I told her that every time she is willing to speak up for those in need, the world DOES change.

On Sundays, I still lose focus from time to time during sermons that feel more like lectures than the discussions my brain finds easier to process. When this happens I focus on soaking up the rays of sun that come in through the wall of windows facing the Santa Lucia mountains. My dad insists we sit on the right side of church so we can enjoy the rose garden next to the sanctuary, which is never a problem as there is always plenty of space (it's an aging population, afterall). For most people my age, there would be nothing to tie them here - no music that stirs the heart, no strategically quirky sermons to make them feel like they're on the right path. But for me, it is the church I have been looking for - for it is bound to what Jesus came to earth and died for - radical inclusion, radical service, radical humanity. 

After book group tonight one of the attendees held back and pulled the pastor aside to ask if he could sleep at the church tonight. He is without a physical home, but like me, has found his church. What a privilege to receive the same welcome and to be able to worship beside him and this community of seeking servants. 


wainaina muiruri said...

This is truly deep

Lynn Davis said...

DOGGONE Megan your post has truly touched me.
I empathize about your search for a spiritual home, your grief over a lost relationship, and your coming to a stop. I especially understand the divisiveness inside when one wants to whatever (travel, volunteer, do) and the physical self can't get with the program.
As one of your oldest followers (both length of time and age) I hope you'll forgive me reminding you that your choices are not a) and b), as I infer. I think there're other churches out there that are the characteristics you want, but are perhaps more diverse populations. And of course one may choose to attend many churches.
Just wanted to encourage you to stretch. Remember that these are the times that test us, and for that we should be grateful, for if we do not test we do not know who we are.
Check 'about' me in FB to find phone no. if you'd like to talk. You are one very special young woman, and I see nothing coming to you but good. Hugs from Canada....

Megan said...

@wainaina - thank you :)

@Lynn - I'm so sorry for the delay and I appreciate your comments very much! I'm still stretching quite a bit but definitely understand what you are saying. Thank you for weighing in - are we friends on facebook? Let me see if I can remedy that now!