Not the Same

I was at a hospital visit this week with a lovely person recovering from some pretty intense surgery. There was a friend there, and as happens sometimes while the person was getting treated and checked, we started talking.

I should preface this by saying that when people find out that I’m a pastor, they immediately start apologizing for not going to church. They MEAN to, they really do! They want to! It’s just that their weekends are so busy. Their son/daughter/wife/husband/partner/dog doesn’t like it. They had a bad experience when they were children. Religion scares them.

Whatever it is, I’ve heard it, and so I do try to say, usually, “It’s okay, it’s all good, I don’t judge,” etc. Because I don’t judge stuff like that. It’s hard sometimes for me to get up and go to church, and I work there. My weekends are busy too. Sometimes my children don’t like church. And anyone who says that religion doesn’t scare them has never worked at a church.

And still, when this friend the other day started telling me about her life and why she doesn’t come to church….I sort of snapped.

It started when I said, “hopefully I’ll see you soon.” This was true, and I wasn’t saying it to shame her. I enjoyed our conversation and I truly hope I will see her again sometime, though I know it sometimes comes across the other way.

She said, “okay, okay, but I do pray at home, by myself!”

Now here, I would normally have said, “That’s great” or some such, but I don’t know what got ahold of me. Instead, I said, “NOT THE SAME.”

“Youch!” said the friend in the hospital bed. “She’s right!”

Because it’s not. I talk to so many people who, like me, have so many reasons to not come. I’m not talking about people who are atheists, or agnostics, or honestly have decided that church is not for them. I’m talking about people like this lovely person, who would be able to find peace, and comfort, and a little bit of heaven, and some challenge thrown in, at church. I’m all for praying by yourself, at home, but IT IS NOT THE SAME, and never will be.

Here’s one more example, and those of you who read my blog regularly will not be surprised to see that it has to do with yoga. I had been doing yoga at home, by podcast, for years. Five years, by my count, that I hadn’t darkened the door of a yoga studio or gym, and that I had been doing some pretty hardcore yoga right there in my living room.

But early this year, I went to a class. It wasn’t anything harder than I had been doing, but it was so much tougher I was sore for a week! With people around me and a teacher to guide me, I found greater strength in basic poses. I watched others who were more advanced to see what the next steps were. I was guided in my meditation, and was able to be still so much longer than I am by myself.

Why did I wait so long? I don’t really know. All I know is that with a community, you feel more, you go deeper, you are surrounded by others on the same path. Jesus will listen to you either way, but there’s so much joy in praying with others when you don’t have the words some days. I GET that people are hypocrites, and do and say terrible things in the name of religion. Nobody gets that more than me! But I also get that joy that comes from simply going to church.

Borrowed from St. John's, Atlanta, an amazing place to experience the best of Church
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5 thoughts on “Not the Same

  1. Good post, and I agree. Our rough edges are only rubbed off in community. I can pray at home alone all I want, and my rough edges will stay just that. It is only when I rub up against other people, and am somewhat abrasive, do I see that I still have rough edges. It’s like a sharp rock that is washed into a stream. As it flows downriver, it rubs up against all the other rocks. When you get downstream, you only see rounded river rocks. All the corners have been worn away. I think it is like that with the Christian walk. Until I jump into a stream with others and start moving together, I can stay just the same and no one will notice. As we move downstream together, we will rub each other, sometimes the wrong way, until we become less abrasive, and can nest together without jabbing another with a sharp point.

  2. True.

    But thou when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy doore, pray to thy father which is in secret, and thy father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

    For where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them.

    Both are important.

  3. When people say, “I can get as much from watching as sunrise as I get from going to church,” I say, “No, you don’t. You don’t study the Bible, you don’t hear the Word illuminatged, you don’t gather for loving fellowship, you don’t share in the eucharist, you don’t donate to the on-going work of the church financially or as a volunteer.”

    1. I probably wouldn’t put it like that….but I see your point. I try to avoid shaming at all costs, because that may be what has driven them away. But sometimes a loving response is to point out what is lovely about the sunrise might be better shared with a few friends.

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