I didn’t grow up in church. My family was composed of atheists and I don’t care’s and the subject was never even a consideration in our house. My great grandmother went to church, but she was old so that was normal. My uncle attended for awhile but it was never discussed at our family gatherings. My babysitter took me a couple times when I was six or seven, but all I remember of it was sitting in the pews listening to some guy talk for an hour. Boring. It is still, on occasion, boring.
Why did I start going? Oh, something about the meaning of life blah, blah, blah. I was caught up in the drama of it all: angels and demons and cosmic battles. I was young and they had free cookies and it was an instant club for me who at that age was socially challenged. They became a second family to me and eventually, because my first family sucked, my primary family. I followed in their footsteps to become a pastor and at the wise old age of 22 I became the leader of a church plant to a different state. I was 22! I mean seriously, who let me do that! I was in no condition to lead people on such an ill advised adventure. Jesus himself didn’t really get going until he was in his 30’s and considering the huge discrepancy between Jesus and me, I think someone should have had a few doubts about that one.
Since then and through many other failures, for 20 years on, I have attended church, even though it sucks.
I obviously received a lot from church and the people in it so why do I think it sucks? It sucks because of all the fucking people! It’s like church was created for all the messed up, socially awkward, boundary challenged, ass backward people. People I would never personally hang out with come up to me and shake my hand and ask me how my children are doing. “Why do you care, you’re weird!” I shout on the inside, and politely respond that my children are well. I’m not going to totally question the wisdom of The Big Guy here, but sometimes I look around the church and say, “Really, really?”.
Being part of a church is like being part of the Griswold family; some of the people make you laugh and the rest are just strange (unless I happen to attend church with you in which case, of course, I like you). You still have to hangout with them though, and this is the part that makes it feel like a real family.
In a real family you can’t choose who you hang out with. We all get thrown together in a small house and have to relate with each other day in and day out. We can’t simply ignore their phone calls or smile politely and say we are busy when we are not, at least until after we move out. We have to learn to understand them, work at knowing them, and when that inevitably fails, simply be gracious. Real families that work are a lot of work.
Really, what bothers me so much is that I am just like my church compatriots. I am an awkward, boundary challenged person who needs the support and insight of other people to help me navigate the waterways of my existence. I am the one who comes up to other people and inquires into the lives of their children. I am the hypocrite in the corner, I am the two faced liar, and I am the judgmental asshole in the back row (and I cuss sometimes).
Yes, I attend church and it sucks. It sucks because it challenges me to be a better person. It sees all of my faults and still lets me in the door. It tells me the truth with courage and love and bad breath. And it is so hopelessly human that I can’t help but see myself in all of the lost souls around me.
Yes, truth be told, I suck too.