Church. Churchitty church church. If you type it enough the word becomes absurd (it could also be my state of near-exhaustion and near-inability to sleep…sigh).
I’m in the mood to tell a story – a story of struggle and seeking and continued struggle and continued seeking. A story of a girl who has been on the hunt for a church home since 1991. I kid you not. That’s 18 long years in case you needed help with the math there. 18.
What follows is part one of my 18-year journey.
I have no real idea what started my discontent with where I was as a high schooler. Okay, maybe I do. We went to the same (Southern Baptist) church for a long time. I have a lot of foundational truth cemented in me because of those years and hold no regrets about that whatsoever. Unfortunately, I also had a lot of unhealthy legalism cemented in me because of those years, and have had to choose to not feel regret over that. To be fair, there was much in me that naturally gravitated toward legalism; rule-following is one of my spiritual gifts (followed closely by rule-imposing). Ahem.
During my last year of high school, I started hopping around a bit. The church we went to was a good thirty-minute drive from our house, so saying that I wanted to check out a couple of places closer to home made practical sense. I hung out with the youth group at a Mennonite Brethern church for a bit because I had friends there. I tried out a local Southern Baptist church nearby, but the kids who went there (and who I also knew from school) had all gone there their whole lives, and I was an obvious intrusion into their Sunday night status quo, which didn’t work out for me at all.
I pretty much ended that high school year sticking with the church I grew up in, but dissatisfied. There was more out there than the list of rules I’d been living by; I just didn’t know where to go to find it.
When I got to college the next year, I did what I knew: I tried out every Southern Baptist church in town (and in an Oklahoma college town, there are a lot of them). I went to all of them for several weeks. By my second semester, I’d finally settled on Countryside Bible Church, as a lot of my Navigator friends went there and it became a sort of home church for me during those years.
When Craig and I married in 1996, we lived in Colorado and were on Navigator staff. He grew up (and then out of) the United Methodist Church back in Illinois, and had been attending a Calvary Chapel in Colorado Springs. The pastor at that time was a really good teacher, so that’s where we stayed. Unfortunately, Calvary Chapel was a “no-membership” church, which also sort of translated to “no accountability.” It also translated to the door greeter welcoming us to Calvary Chapel, “Is this your first time here?” every. single. Sunday. That got old.
Two years later, our first daughter was born. When she was two weeks old, we took her to church, but when we walked toward the sanctuary, we were stopped and informed we couldn’t bring the baby in so as not to be a distraction to the preaching of the Word. They said we could put her in the nursery (if you think I’d ever put my first two-week old baby in any nursery, think again), or there was a nursing room at the back of the sanctuary. I had this flash forward of spending the next many years in a nursing room while our kids were forced into a children’s church program. We walked out and didn’t go back.
From there the story gets sad. I’d never wanted to be one of those consumeristic church hoppers. By intention, we weren’t, but in practice, I guess we were.