We're less than halfway through January, and 2007 is already promising to be a year that is rather...well, interesting.
After much prayer, study, soul-searching, discussion with friends and advisers, sleepless hours, and uncountable hours of analyzing things from every angle we could, my husband and I have made the painful decision to leave our church. Today was our first Sunday to go elsewhere. The church we visited was friendly and warm, and we knew several people there. The worship seemed fresh and real. The man who filled in for the pastor had a powerful testimony, and his message seemed to speak to an issue that I'm currently living out in my life.
But it wasn't home.
I have often wondered if church is forever ruined for me. (Read Michael Spencer's post on that topic here.) Part of it is, of course, being raised as a P.K. (Guys, that meant "Preacher's Kid" long before it meant Promise Keeper.) No pastor can fill my father's shoes. Besides, I've seen the dark underbelly of the church, and it has wounded me forever.
But there is more...I've also seen, as Michael Spencer writes so eloquently, "When I discovered the voice and practices of the ancient church, and the language of the ecumenical church, I resonated deeply. All of the church was my home, but no single room within it made me so comfortable I wanted to stay there and there only."
No church is ever enough for me. It seems that I always long for more, for something different, for some part of my heart and mind to be touched in a way that no one church has ever been able to touch. I want expository preaching and deeply heartfelt worship and beautiful architecture and pipe organs and liturgy and spontaneity and unadorned simplicity and lay pastors and ordained clergy and formality and informality and ancientness and newness --- and there is no church crazy enough and contradictory enough to give me all of that, to feed all those parts of my soul.
I want a church that follows a glorious historical tradition...and a church that also offers, at times, a worship experience that is the spiritual equivalent of "partying down at the frat house." (The last time we were looking for a church, a pastor friend of mine told me that I would never be happy in a church that didn't encourage me to be a serious student of the Word. But he also told me that I would probably need to go elsewhere on occasion for a more exuberant expression of worship. "After all," he said, "there is nothing wrong with partying down at the frat house.")
Most of all, I want a church that is, as another friend of mine said, a safe place to land. I want a church that will not, yet again, add to my woundedness. I want a church that will instead minister healing.
The truth is that I'm not always sure what I want. I've found bits and pieces of my "church home" here and there but, in every church since I was a teenager, I've felt like a sojourner or, at best, a member of the extended family. I am already weary at the idea of searching for a new church, because I doubt that I will ever, this side of Heaven, find what I'm longing to find.
I want to see Jesus. Just show me Jesus.