My husband and I sat with hands on our forehead, bleary-eyed in front of our computer screens late Saturday night googling local churches to attend the next morning. The house was freshly out of boxes (that mostly I unpacked) as my husband blitzed through a week of orientation to his new job as an Assistant Professor of Religion at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota.
“Does anyone have child care?” I bemoaned.
“Yes, this conservative one does,” My husband smirked. “Look how big it is!”
I stared at the picture of 50 somethings holding microphones and guitars and felt my stomach turn sour.
“Why are the churches with black and white answers so big?”
“And this LGBT friendly one apparently just sold their building to pay off their debts.”
“Look! The cute Episcopal church in town says it invites children to worship and welcomes hearing them make joyful noises.”
“That just means the small congregation will stare at the new folks while we juggle our three kids.”
I started digging deeper and reading church minutes. “This one is still arguing about the gay issue every week. They have unanimously decided not to allow same sex blessings.”
“Look at the coming attractions on this page!” Husband, David giggled as he saw my blank screen.
My favorite was the church that posted new comer pictures and bios and gave a shout out to the techies because the young families found them on a google search.
After nearly an hour of searching, the two of us buckled over laughing at the absurdities, at the suddenly tenable thought that we might never find a church where we belong.
“Jess–we’re not really church type folks,” David’s eyes sparkled and suddenly I wanted to cry. Because I really wanted to be a church type folk. I felt called after seminary to help reinvigorate the church. Something big happened to me in college: I experienced the love of God when I was in a seriously bad place and I thought, “It’s real! It’s so cheesy, but God is real and God is really full of love!” And so I spent my college years studying religion, philosophy and psychology, I went to seminary and I worked for ten years in the Episcopal church in the Chicago area trying to share God’s love and my love with children and youth.
Some people call this new phase “burn out” but I’m not in a spiritual crisis. I wonder if I am called to leave the church (after a few years of wondering if I wanted to pursue ordination). I share many of the same complaints as the Millennial’s and the None’s: I can’t stand the politics either–yes money does matter. Yes, there are power and turf struggles. Yes, some people won’t change. Yes, even jerks go to church and don’t know how to love and don’t want to learn how. And it’s especially hard when you catch a glimpse of the underbelly and the under-the-mask realities that seem bigger than Jonah’s whale. And because Christians (and politicians) prefer to play “nice” the healthy conflict that is necessary for growth is often avoided. But that’s not my main source of angst (I know these are not merely church issues, but life issues).
Truth be told: church stopped being a place I could easily connect with God. There was another place that was helping me doing that so much better. And that place was the yoga studio.
I began to realize that my body always felt sick on Sunday mornings. It was as if a woman’s body–my body–wasn’t fully welcome. I worshiped from the head up. I tried to transform all the masculine, roman, patriarchal, warrior, language in my head. It was enough to slay me in the spirit or make my eyes spin causing me to look demon possessed (which was a real job hazard). I worked to compartmentalize and transcend all the messiness of my life in some far away forgotten place often labeled Forgiveness Land so I could find the crystal clear answers and the Perfect God.
In my yoga practice I began to accept the difficulties and honest complexities of where I am at as a human being. And where I am at is always one place: I am in my body. And in order to be fully embodied requires the tending of old wounds, deep fears, and for me, sexual healing from past abuses. And these are things that the church has been unable to help me with. (Let’s be fair, the church has only had a relatively small amount of time in the last 2,000 years to incorporate women’s perspectives on God into our own language and symbols for great advances to make their way into corporate worship.)
Advent and Christmas seasons celebrate that Christ is born in the flesh. And not just of the flesh, but in our own flesh God is born. We all are called to bear God (the many faces and gifts of God–even the feminine form of God). And in order for me to do that better I have to continue to practice being present in each moment and learn to live fully in my body, in all the suffering and all the joy. I need my whole body to worship.
Last Sunday we happily attended The Church of the Holy Comforter and slept in. It was a true spiritual experience.
I start my yoga teacher certification program in a few weeks. I am looking forward to creating new liturgies, divine music and sacred spaces for God to dwell with us and more fully in us.
And we’ll keep looking for a church where we can find a community to grow with (don’t worry Grandma!).
The Divine in me greets and honors the Divine in you.