For the past 7 years I've been internally fighting the lifestyle that I was living. I wasn't forced or pressured to live like this - but when I tried to go back to what seemed right, it never felt right for some reason. Home no longer felt like home. It was such a weird time for me. I felt nostalgic when I was away but then I felt misaligned when I tried to return. I thought to myself, "I just have to get used to it again." It was so weird because I didn't really know who I was anymore. I was getting scared because I felt guilty for the change that occurred within me.
In my early twenties I fell in love with being the typical church girl. I was in church bright and early every Sunday, and at every Bible study on Wednesdays. I was a goody two shoes and I embraced that characteristic with pride. I used to say "If you want to find me on a Sunday morning 5, 10, 20 years from now, I'll be in church." That's how much I loved going to church, volunteering and interacting with my church family. I loved the purpose of it all. I loved talking about God and being surrounded by others who loved God as well. But that changed 7 years ago.
I know the reason why I stopped attending the specific church I was a member of at the time. It wasn't typical church hurt and I wasn't kicked out or anything like that. My regular attendance became sporadic and then next thing you know I never returned. It was weird at first, but I figured my family and I would soon find another church to join and just start over. That never happened. We visited several churches throughout the years but nothing ever clicked. And we spent more Sundays outside of church than inside. In my mind I thought I was failing God, but in my heart I didn't truly feel convicted. I was still very close to God and He dealt with me about a lot of things but it was never "get back involved with a church." But that couldn't be right because Christians are supposed to be in church every single Sunday, rain or snow, no matter what ... right?
A couple of years ago my husband and I split up and I thought to myself, "Well now I'm definitely going to throw myself back into the church and be just like I was in my young and single years." So I tried to get back in the ministry grind, thinking that the loss of my marriage created a void in my life that would be filled with ministering in church like I used to do. To my surprise however, I still felt the same while I sat in different churches that I visited. I felt like I was trying to hold on to something that was no longer there. Now at this point some would understandably say I just didn't find the right church yet. But if I'm being perfectly honest, my motive for wanting to be a church girl again wasn't actually a good one.
The reason I wanted to get back into the church grind so badly was because I was afraid of the version of myself that no longer wanted to be under the leadership of another person. Back in my 20s, I desperately yearned for mentors that understood me and could guide me. I wanted a spiritual parent or a big sister who would regularly hear God on my behalf. But when I reached out I'd get the standard "just pray about it." I constantly felt overlooked and dismissed, but not in a way that made me feel unloved. You know how the child that behaves seems to get less attention than the child that was always getting into trouble? That's how it felt coming up in church. No one felt the need to worry about me while on the inside I was crying for attention. I wasn't desperate enough to act out because I was disciplined enough to follow the conviction of the Holy Spirit, but I still wanted certain people to see how lost I felt even though I seemed perfectly fine.
Looking back, I no longer blame the ones who disappointed me. I realize now that God set it up this way. He knew that I wanted to be under people simply because I couldn't bring myself to trust my ability to hear Him. I remember when a group from my old church and I visited another church. A prophet at that church gave EVERY SINGLE PERSON FROM MY CHURCH A WORD but me. I wish I was making this up, I couldn't believe it. I wanted to cry but held it together. I felt so unseen by God. Even recently I asked a prayer warrior to seek God on my behalf about my current situation because I was so sure that I was missing something. Weeks later she came back to me and said, "I tried to dig deeper but all I heard God say was 'Tell her that I love her and that she hears Me. Just trust Me.'" So basically God told her that I can hear Him myself and He has nothing else to say to anyone else about the matter.
That's when I decided to finally free myself of the religious mindset I carried of feeling like I'm not a real Christian because I can't bring myself to get up under leadership again. I still love church in general with all of my heart. I attend a church weekly for my kids. I love the church for them and thankfully they love it too. However, the thought of getting back up under leadership and not being "seen" makes me say, "Never again!" I don't want any more generic responses or instructions that are actually wrong for me. For that reason I don't care to join any of the ministries or commit to anything.
God has been working on me for years to stand boldly in what I hear Him say to me. And the way I see it, that would mean I'd have to rebel against the "cookie cutter Christian image" from time to time. I don't want to be guilty of rebelling against someone I call my pastor or my leader. Right now I am just walking this path alone and allowing God to bring correction and guidance to me in a plethora of ways as He has been these past 7 years.
It's time I stop shutting myself up just because someone else with "more experience" wouldn't agree. I've turned out to be right in the long run on many things I was so unsure about. So as uncomfortable as it is sometimes, I'll walk this path that doesn't seem Christian at times, as long as Jesus is leading the way.
The scripture that encourages me in this journey is Mark 3:1-5. This was when Jesus broke the law that stated no man was to work on the Sabbath. Jesus knew that the Sabbath was created as a reminder for man to rest. It wasn't meant to refuse helping a man in need simply because of the day of the week. Jesus saw a need, and met it without checking the calendar or looking for approval. He knew His first priority was advancing the Kingdom of God - and sometimes that means breaking tradition.