Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Searching for Sunday: The Introduction Already Made Me Cry

Yesterday I bought Rachel Held Evans' book Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church. I'm a big fan of her work in general and I feel very connected with the thoughts and feelings she expresses, so when I knew she was writing about church, my heart gave a little leap. I wrote this on my Facebook yesterday:
I don't know about you guys, but some days, like today, are just long, weary, disappointing days, and then I remember that "Searching for Sunday," Rachel Held Evans' book about church, is available for purchase today, and a little bit of my soul breathes a sigh of relief, and I scurry on over to the Kindle store to buy it immediately, because I suspect that what "Introverts in the Church" was to me in 2009, this book could be to me in 2015. Yay for small moments of joy!
Let me explain what that means.

I read "Introverts in the Church" by Adam S. McHugh in 2009. This was at least a year or two before people started talking about introverts all over the place -- I'd never heard anyone defending it, much less from a Christian standpoint. It took me WEEKS to get through that book because I couldn't go more than about half a chapter without dissolving into tears. These were good tears though. The book was undoing so much self-hatred and self-disappointment and fear that being an introvert meant I was fundamentally broken. This book, with its every page, whispered into my ear, "You are OK. You are not damaged. God loves you and made you this way." I hadn't even realized how deeply I'd internalized the lie that Jesus was obviously an extrovert and we should be too.

At that point in my life, my deepest insecurity lay in my introversion. I have discovered recently that today, my deepest insecurity lies in my relationship with church. That is what fills me with self-hatred. That is what makes me feel fundamentally broken. That's the one I do not feel comfortable championing like I do with introversion, because I'm not sure yet how I can be a good Christian and dread church the way I do. It's the one that if I get into a debate or even a friendly discussion about it, I'm very likely to break down in tears, because there's only so much time you can spend listening to someone accidentally confirm that all those self-loathing thoughts that taunt you at 3 a.m. are completely justified. You are broken. You can't do this. You're doing it all wrong. You'll never grow. What's wrong with you?

So when I read this in the intro of Rachel's book, it was exactly, exactly what I needed to hear:
For me, talking about church in front of a bunch of Christians means approaching a microphone and attempting to explain the most important, complicated, beautiful, and heart-wrenching relationship of my life in thirty minutes or less without yelling or crying or saying any cuss words. Sometimes I wish they'd find someone with a bit more emotional distance to give these lectures, someone who doesn't have to break herself open and bleed all over the place every time someone asks, innocently enough, "So where have you been going to church these days?"
She talks later on in the intro about how despite feeling underqualified and knowing she hasn't reached anywhere near a conclusion on her faith journey yet, she felt she had something to offer in writing this book, "if nothing more than a few hundred pages of 'me too.'"

Well, you know what? Just like I needed to hear, "You feel like you have to be gregarious to be a Christian? Me too!" from Adam S. McHugh in 2009, I need to hear, "You love God but sometimes just can't stand church? Me too!" in 2015. If this book is nothing more than a few hundred pages of "me too," I will take it, because from following Rachel's blog and reading her books, I trust her faith. It feels like mine. She's not the backslider I was told I'd be if I struggled with church. She's someone trying to honestly figure out how to be most like Jesus, someone who loves the Bible even if she interprets it differently than some of the people around her. So when she says, "Me too," I feel genuinely comforted.

I suspect this book will take me a little while to read, since I'm going to need to digest it pretty frequently, so I'm going to be blogging about it as I go. Not on any kind of schedule, but just... as I go. (Though I will space them out if I end up writing like six blogs in two days.) If you like what you're reading, or if you share my complicated relationship with church, I highly suggest you buy the book yourself and read along with me.

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