I Just Can’t With Church Right Now

April 19, 2017

I grew up in the church. I attended Sunday School, Bible School, and went to every retreat and lock-in when I was young. I sought comfort in the church during the worst times in my life. It was the church who has showed up to serve me in my darkest hours. I met my husband at church, my best friends at church, baptized my children at church. I’ve taught Sunday School, served on worship teams, volunteered at VBS and participated in countless Bible studies. Church is my family. Worshiping God is in my DNA, literally AND by choice.

And yet, I just can’t with church right now. I’m not mad at God or the church. It just hurts too much. When I go there, it’s like a spotlight on my loss. Instead of focusing on worshiping God in that space, which I truly desire, my heart hurts and it is a distraction. I see all the intact families. I see husbands putting their arms around their wives during the sermon. I see what I used to have and it hurts so badly.

That isn’t anyone’s fault, including my own. And I whole-heartedly know God understands. I also know I need the church. I need to be part of the church. But for right now, I can’t. I’m still in my Bible. I’m still talking to God. I’m still talking to my kids about God. But I’m in a season of I just can’t with it!

I know this won’t be a forever thing. I know I’ll be back, because I’m designed to be back. But I’m also giving myself time to work through it. And if that means I’m not as engaged with the actual church building or worshiping during the services going on within those walls, I think that’s ok. I’m watching online and working on being “the church” in my personal life – in my community and with my friends and neighbors. I’m teaching my kids the way I always have.

What I’m learning in this season of rest is how ever-present God is in all the places. I’m not disregarding the importance of the church community. I’m not minimizing the impact, or even the instruction or benefits of worshiping together. But I am noticing God with me even (or maybe especially) when I just can’t. He’s in the tender moments I’m sharing with friends. He’s in the miracles of new buds on the trees and birds joyfully singing in the yard. He’s in the powerful spring thunderstorms and in the bluest of skies. His majesty, power, love and grace are available to me no matter if, how or where I’m seeking Him.

Mark 6:30-32
The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.  And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.

It was strange not going TO church on Easter Sunday. I think it’s only the second time I’ve ever not gone. The first was last year, because it was just hours after my husband died. And the second was this year. The truth is, I think about the crucifixion and resurrection almost every single day. Not just the day the calendar says we should gather to acknowledge it. My hope is in the resurrection. Knowing the promise of eternal life, of being reunited with my husband one day is what sustains me. As the song goes, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow!”

Maybe you’re reading this and worried about my soul. Let me reassure you again – God and I? We’re good. I promise. Or maybe you’re reading this with understanding. Maybe you too have experienced a season of needing to jump in your Jesus boat and head off to your desolate place for a bit.

It’s a sabbatical of sorts. In Hebrew, Sabbatical comes from the word Shabbat, i.e., Sabbath, which literally means “ceasing.” It is a rest. I need rest. The goal is this time will carry me to renewal and I’ll be able to more clearly see God’s will for me.

So, be assured I am not abandoning the church and I am certainly not giving up on God. It’s quite the opposite, really. I am allowing myself this time-out, this Sabbath, to come back stronger, recharged, and ready to work! It is my hope this time will strengthen my relationship with God, not weaken it.

I don’t have a set amount of time in my head. If I feel like worshiping in the church building, I will. If it hurts too much, I won’t. I hope to feel ok with it sometime soon though, because the church is a vital part of me. It’s a necessary thing in my life. It’s how I know this is temporary, part of my healing I think. I need the church, and the church needs me, because it needs all of us. We are all part of what makes church work. I bring my personality, gifts and talents and others bring theirs. It’s what makes it all work together beautifully.

So, I’ll be back! But not today. Today I’ll be renewing my mind, seeking God in a quiet place to find His will for me.

Romans 12:2 (NIV)

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Extra grace,

Jodi

 

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16 Comments

  • Reply eileenboggess April 19, 2017 at 10:57 am

    I am also on a sabbatical, but for different reasons. I have been catholic since birth. I went to catholic school, received 6 out of 7 sacraments, taught in a catholic school, raised my children as catholic, and sent them to catholic schools. The church is my home and yet this was the first Easter I did not go to mass. Although it is painful to be physically separated from my church, it would be even more painful to sit in a church that doesn’t accept my child as he is–an amazing and caring person. I have decided until my entire family is accepted as equal in the church, I will show my faith in my words, actions, and carry it in my heart.

    In closing, I will quote the eloquent Jodi, “I’ll be back! But not today. Today I’ll be renewing my mind, seeking God in a quiet place to find His will for me.”

  • Reply Erin April 19, 2017 at 11:49 am

    Right there with ya’. Church, church and Bible Study and all chatty with the church staff. But I can’t.
    We were wed there. Children dedicated there. His funeral. There.
    I’ve been to a couple services on a satellite campus. A little easier but still not easy.
    For me, I enter to worship and to be open to what I will experience, but what happens in that openness is my broken composure. Sure everyone says it’s ok to break down. But really it’s a mess and a distraction to them.
    A widow’s church strategy is to arrive late, sit in back and leave early. Those are the brave ones.
    Miriam Neff, mentor to widows, says 80 % of widows leave their church within the first year. They go from front row, to back row, to out the back door, rarely noticed in any of those steps.
    It’s also the “Who will I sit with?” and “How do I get through the gauntlet of faces to get to my seat unbeaten?””
    I’m not abandoning either, but my firm return is a ways off.

  • Reply Jeanie Martin April 19, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    You’re so where you’re supposed to be. More in tune with God than most of us for sure.

  • Reply Lisa Stock April 19, 2017 at 8:44 pm

    Love you friend. Felt very similar during different times in my life.

  • Reply nancy wold April 19, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    12595 N Piping Rock Rd.

  • Reply Liz Cook April 20, 2017 at 7:26 am

    Thank you for your honesty. This is exactly where I am in my “new normal”. I continue to go to church but it is not comforting to be there right now and reminds each Sunday of the empty spot next to me. I know we are to lean on the Lord and he strengthens, gives peace, joy and comfort. My heart goes out to you for I know the place you are in. Just remember you are not alone.

  • Reply carla kirby April 20, 2017 at 11:27 am

    I know the feeling. My Husband has been gone a little over a month and I can’t go to alot of places. Hopefully that will change, but not Today!!!

  • Reply Kara Meech April 20, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    I agree as well my husband has been gone a little over 6 months, my relationship with is very personal to me, and while my love for him is strong, I am a little angry at him at the moment, and I know it will pass, but not today

    • Reply Kara Meech April 20, 2017 at 12:15 pm

      * with God is very strong

  • Reply Robin Reid April 20, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    My hand is raised and waving frantically to shout YES!!!!!! I have been there, I have done that – well…… actually I’m still doing that and my husband will have been gone 11 years on 9/21/17. I get it! I have still been looking for my new normal after over 10 years. I’ve given up hope of finding it because it will not be what I had and I’ve come to realize I don’y want anything else. I think because it feels like settling for 2nd best and for a perfectionist, 2nd place just never quite cuts it! That you for your writing – I’m a new reader but not a new widow.

  • Reply Nancy Mann April 22, 2017 at 5:51 am

    I understand exactly how you feel. I lost my husband of 51 years to lung cancer on February 21 of this year. I did go back to church several weeks after he died but it has been very difficult. My church family is very loving and supportive ;during fellowship time when the choir comes down so many people ask how I am doing with their sad eyes and I end up loosing it. From then on through the service I am struggling to get myself together and it is difficult to listen to the sermon, sing, keep up in finding scripture or even to focus. It is in church that I miss him the most, and it is is there that I have the most difficulty dealing with reigning in my emotions.

  • Reply Jan April 22, 2017 at 10:43 am

    Having your love story begin through church makes it more than just getting through a worship service for you. You are worshiping in your own way right now. I pray I’ll see you back at worship again in time. Perhaps another sight but praising the Lord ❤️

  • Reply Suzy Lowe May 10, 2017 at 11:57 am

    Church actually made me feel anxious after our son, Aaron, died. I knew I SHOULD go so i tried, but I just wanted to hide or get in and out without the crowds. There are A LOT of babies at our church!!! And it always seemed the band played “Running to your Arms” which is what we sang at his funeral. It didn’t last forever and I was glad to know this was ‘normal’ in the meantime. Through it all, like you, I knew God understood and just wanted me to take my time, grieve and trust him.

  • Reply Mike Housholder May 13, 2017 at 11:06 am

    To everything there’s a season … and even while you’re temporarily staying away from the church building for a time, I’m glad (for us and for you) that you’re staying connected to your church family (via online worship), friendships … and even sharing an empowering word with your church on Mother’s Day (gotta love technology)! My prayer for you, Jodi, is that when this season gives way to the next, you’ll find grace and healing waiting for you, alive and in person, here at Hope. Until then, love is patient … and we’ve got nothing but love for you & yours … bless you! -Pastor Mike

  • Reply sylvia September 1, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    I continued going to church after my husband died last year( waited few weeks) but now my daughter has died too I don’t think I can face going back! I have good friends who are praying for me while I cant pray myself!

  • Reply Tonia Gould October 1, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    I am 9 days away from it being 1 year. He passed after a battle with liver disease. Except for visiting my Momma’s church once or twice I have not been. I just can’t bring myself to go. And after reading this I feel like God is saying that for now, it’s ok. I can quit trying to pressure myself into going and failing every time. Adter reading this I actually just turned on some worship music and just worshipped. Just me and God. Thank you for putting into words what so many of us are going thru.

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