Sunday, July 3, 2011

When the Foxhole Needs to Change

Well over a year ago I wrote about choosing a foxhole, about settling down in a church community even in the midst of feeling burnt out and fearful about the potential tyranny of church commitments mixing with my inherent inability to use the word "no".   At the time, we settled on a church that's a good place. There are people there who clearly love God, love others and are seeking to follow him faithfully in this world. It's not perfect and it wasn't my style, but we were happy with the choice. The only problem was, after months and months of trying to actually fit in, at some point you have to ask yourself that question: "It may be good, but is it right?" 

I don't mean to raise any kind of theological debate in asking that question. I merely mean that sometimes in life we choose to do things because they are good things but not necessarily because we are supposed to be doing those things.  This is how I got in over my head in Richmond. All the things I was doing were good, but at some point they were just things I was doing.

So, having committed to a place and tried in vain to feel connected, in feeling frustrated every week at still feeling like an outsider, we had to ask ourselves if it was ok to leave. We had to have that wrestling match with the Lord, because I have had roughly a million conversations over the years about how you don't choose a church just based on what you want or because you like the music or because the pastor is a particularly sassy preacher. You choose a church because of what the Lord is doing in and through it and how you might be a part of that. Not personal preferences, but how God wants you to be a part of His story there.  So, in my typical fashion, I began to wrestle with a lot of guilt about the possibility of leaving a church. Am I leaving because, frankly, I don't love the music? Is it because it's too traditional for me and I just can't adapt? Is this selfish? Or is it right?

For a long time my story with the Lord has been deeply interwoven with the story of race and multiethnicity in the church. I've seen this play out in our choices of where to live, in what I've bugged my students about, in the most difficult struggles of my own prejudice and sin, in my passion for worship and in my communities.  So each Sunday as we entered this community the thing I was the most aware of was how monocultural it felt. The music was the same and reflecting one specific type of style, the way things were done were always one way. And I believe my heart felt stifled. Staff who've tasted both the highs and the lows of multiethnic community often joke that InterVarsity has ruined us for the church. I felt that this might be true- could we really find a community here that was talking about this, that was willing to change to reflect the people who were involved?  It didn't feel possible where we were.

In the midst of struggling with this guilt of possibly leaving a church, we began to look around.  I went into it this time around with a little bit of a different outlook, though. One thing I could say about not being able to plug in at this church we had committed to was that I had had time to heal from my overcommittedness in the past. I had had time to begin to really yearn again for community, to have hope in my own ability to make the right choices in how to serve and love there, to be able to listen again to the Lord as he challenged me in new ways.  So as we talked over where to try, I was doing it this time with eagerness.  With expectation. Yes, the guilt warred with both of these emotions each week, but ultimately the Lord really freed me from it. We tried two churches, one of which we had checked out initially when we moved here but had decided against because of some uncertainties they were going through at the time.

After just a few Sundays, I knew. I knew this place that we had tried two years ago was the right place. It hadn't been before- I know that. The year we spent at our other church was a good time of healing for me.  Possibly if we had stayed at this new church back then, I would've immediately jumped in and had no time to heal. There's no way to know for sure, but I suspect it.

But what I do know is this.   This morning, I woke up excited to go to meet with the Lord in community. I was looking forward into running into people we've just met and excited for Josh to continue to make friends in his Sunday school class. I wondered what creative mix of music the music director, a man I've recently met and really enjoy and respect, had put together for the morning and so grateful to be able to get involved with what he's doing in the coming weeks and months.  I was humbled to look around the room at an increasingly diverse group of people and know that the Lord was doing something really great here.  I laughed as the worship leader made us all join hands and sway at the end of the service as we sang and laughed even harder when for some reason it ended up not being cheesy.  I felt drawn into what God is doing here and excited that multiethnicity is a conversation that is being had loud and clear.

And as I looked around at kids running around with blue or red tinged lips because of the patriotic cupcakes they had at snacktime I felt sort of like a kid myself.  A kid with all these new opportunities in front of me, who has felt welcomed into this new community and released from the old, thankful for what the Lord did in my time there and excited for what He will undoubtedly do here.  Our last church was a foxhole. This one, I hope, will be more like home base.

1 comment:

  1. Saw this and thought it might relate for some that resonated with this post: http://www.shauninthecity.com/2011/06/6-things-a-pastor-wishes.html

    ReplyDelete