I haven't been to church in more than a year. I don't intend to go back.
Weird, right? It feels weird to type this.
I've been attending church my whole life. Every Sunday. I did a lot of activities with my church youth group growing up, with varying results. (To be honest, a lot of my attendance as a teenager was because of two huge crushes I had on boys who both turned out to be decidedly not right for me. But whatever, Jesus does not hold this against me). I took my kids to church every week, and they also participated in youth groups when they were in middle school. One of the first things we did when moving to North Carolina was look for a church.
We never found it, not really. We found a few that were "okay" and we found several that were just horrible. Just so, so bad. I remember the four of us sitting in a pew in one of the bad churches and the pastor, the "man of God" who was supposed to be leading this congregation started making fun of transgender people.
Making fun of transgender people. In church. In front of God and everyone.
Transgender people. Who are, according to the Bible that the pastor then shook and screamed about, also God's children. Those people.
I felt so embarassed. I looked around the congregation and so many of the people were laughing and cheering about what that pastor said. I remember thinking...what if there is a transgender person sitting here right now? What if that person is hurting and lost and alone and seeking Jesus? What if there is a mother or father of a transgender person in this congregation? What if they came here looking for help or guidance or healing?
It wasn't funny. It wasn't okay. I sat through the rest of the sermon (I wish I had got up and left, but I was too afraid then) and then I never returned. I'll never go back.
Some of the churches we've visited have been okay. There is one in particular near our house that I kind of like. The pastor is nice, he normally wears jeans. They have loud music and lots of singing, which I love. The pastor speaks a lot about helping refugees and doing good works in our community. I think it's a lot of what Jesus the Dude actually talked about- not hellfire and brimstone and screaming at people because they are different than you. Just helping people. Loving those around you. Being part of a community.
I know not all churches are bad. I know this. No one needs to message me and tell me how wrong I am. No one needs to message me and tell me I'm going to hell because I don't love church. No one needs to try to make me feel guilty for not showing up. I've processed all of this and I'm not going to feel guilty about it. Church is not for me and that's okay.
Jesus is still for me.
Last year I went hiking, alone. For several days I followed every path I was interested in. I didn't listen to music, or talk unless I absolutely had to (I'm not a jerk face, I said hello to people). I just climbed. I climbed and climbed and struggled over rocks and difficult paths. At one point I had to get on my hands and knees to traverse a particularly difficult area. I took pictures of the beauty of nature and everything around me.
I felt the presense of God, everywhere.
I felt very small.
I never felt alone, though.
I realized I don't like what "church" has become in this world, and that's okay.
God is good.
I'm at peace.