For some time now I feel like I have been just going through the motions when it comes to the spiritual life. This is particularly the situation with attending church. I have been a regular church-goer for as long as I can remember. Of course I've missed days, even consecutive Sundays at times and I have had times when I went although I didn't really feel the desire. I can remember one period in my life when our church situation was so bad that I would have rather done almost anything than go to church. That situation resulted less from a lack of spiritual motivation in myself and more from a very negative spiritual situation at the church we attended at that time. Eventually we did leave, though perhaps we should have done so long before we did. Neither my wife nor I give up easily – she is particularly tenacious, sometimes to a fault – and when it comes to leaving a worship community we both agree that it is not something to be done lightly.
In my current situation I cannot say that our worship community has nearly the negative spiritual environment that the earlier one did. But I'm not fully comfortable there either. I'm not comfortable with some of the positions the church has on some issues, particularly their view of women in ministry. I'm also not comfortable with the strong inclination to a conservative social and politic agenda that I see in the members of the church and in the leadership. I've joked about putting a pro-Obama sticker on my car just to see what the rest of the church would do (and been told by my wife in no uncertain terms that this will never happen because she will not allow it!) More often than not I find the 45-minute sermons overly long and not engaging. However, there are many wonderful people in this church, people who love God and are trying to serve God as best they understand how to do this. I read about the abusive church situations that many people come out of and I realize that I cannot speak of this church environment as abusive. But I don't feel fully at peace there anymore. I see that I have changed and am changing and that I am no longer in sync with this community. So I keep attending, but mostly out of a sense of obligation and duty.
My wife and I have talked about whether we should look for another worship community. We've even got some ideas and may visit them in the coming months. But inertia works against us. We keep doing what we've done, keep going where we've gone, because we know that place and we know those people. We may feel different from them, but we know them and, so far at least, they haven't rejected our differentness.
This may seem like a trivial concern to some. Or it may seem like an easy, straightforward decision. If only it were. To continue where we are is at the same time familiar and easy and yet leaves me with a lot of internal tension. To look elsewhere leaves me feeling that I have betrayed our current church and am communicating rejection to the people we know there. Not to mention that I don't look forward to the idea of looking for a different church home. At what point is it appropriate to move on? At what point do the issues become significant enough to change? How long should I stick it out and work through the tensions that come with being different than those around me?
What if I took a sabbatical from church attendance? Would that mean I've stopped being a faithful Christian? What would others think? Would I risk never returning?
I wrestle with questions such as these all the time and don't seem to be making any headway toward resolving them. Most of the time I go to church on Sunday mornings, but often I feel rather hypocritical as I sit in the chair, ostensibly listening to the sermon while actually I'm trying to keep my mind from wandering. I prod my son to keep him awake, feeling guilty as I do because I recognize that I'm fighting the same thing. I want to be excited about being in God's worship community again. I want to embrace being in fellowship with God's people. I want to have renewed passion for worship (recognizing that this goes far beyond the issue of church attendance). But at the moment I mostly feel apathetic, uncertain and unmotivated. I know intellectually that the church service isn't really about me and what I get out of it anyway, but if I don't feel like I meet God there, if I don't feel like being there draws me into renewed relationship with God, then what purpose does it serve?
It seems I have more questions than answers at present. I plod onward, carried forward by inertia. But oh, how I long for some real passion. But is passion even what I really need?