Let’s Talk About Church, Or Things You Didn’t Think You’d Hear Kenlie Say…

There are days in which I feel like discussing things here that are totally unrelated to weight-loss, and today is one of those days.  I tend to work through feelings as I post them here so today I feel like sharing something personal that I don’t normally discuss.

If you’ve been here long, you may know that my dad was a preacher when I was growing up.  I grew up going to church on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday night and usually at least one additional night for some kind of Bible study or youth group.  I spent a lot of time in church, and I saw a lot of things that I didn’t like.

As a teenager I still attended church at every turn, but when I was 17 or so, I decided that I didn’t want to.  I did anyway because I had to, but I found myself increasingly fed up with the hypocrisy and politics of church.

My late teens were the worst years of my life for reasons that I may never be comfortable sharing here.  I was dealing with my parents’ recent divorce among other horrible things, and I vividly remember driving around town, trying to figure out how I could end my life without it hurting too much.  I remember being unable to imagine what it would be like to celebrate my 30th birthday. (It was awesome, by the way.)

I remember walking into a Bible study one evening and hearing my friends/fellow church-goers gossiping about my problems. I remember being disappointed and beyond mortified. Life was hard, and I was keenly aware that the church was the last place I could go for support.

I needed peace and assurance that everything would be okay, but I didn’t find that. Instead I faced gossip, judgment and condescension.  The meanest, most judgmental people I knew were from the church, and I decided that if that’s what church was about, I didn’t want any part of it.

Over the last decade I have continued to distance myself from the church.  I go when I visit Dad, or when it’s important to someone in my family.   I’ve gone on occasion over the years, but I haven’t been a member of any church or organization since my late teens.  For years I felt so much anger toward the church that I couldn’t have a conversation about it or about God without becoming a condescending jerk.

Almost a year ago I met someone who had been through similar experiences growing up.  He’s a big part of a church here, and the day I met him (through Shannon) I made it clear that I did not like church and that I likely wouldn’t go.  He made it a point to know that he wasn’t pressuring me to.  We were both really upfront about it, but I worried that he might judge me or dislike me because I didn’t go.

After a few months of assuming that we’d never be close because I was a cursing, non-church-goer, I began to realize that he was my friend.  Over time I stopped waiting to see him roll his eyes or judge me because he never did it, and he continued to disprove everything I thought about people who go to church.

When he started dating someone new recently I started spending even more time with him because I really like her too.  I connected with her immediately, and when she mentioned that I should come to church, I said “okay.”  I’ve told Jeff and Shannon more than once that I was strongly considering showing up on a Sunday morning, but two weeks ago I did it.

Visiting this church had been on my mind for quite a while, but it took several months for me to convince myself to go.  In my mind I knew what church was all about, and everyone always says that their church is different.  Jeff said that too.  He said that I would walk in and not feel condemned or judged, and though I wanted to believe him, I didn’t.

I’m not sure what changed two weeks ago, but I decided to show up.  I got there a few minutes before the service started, and I was a little nervous.  I think I was bracing myself for the realization that this church was just like the rest of them, but that realization never came.  Instead, I found myself nervously embracing what was happening in me and around me, and by the time the service ended, I knew I wanted to go back.

It’s hard to make sense of my feelings surrounding this church, but I can sum it up by saying that I didn’t leave feeling “preached at.”  I know that sounds ridiculous when speaking about church, but I felt like the pastor taught from the Bible rather than shoving it down my throat.

I went back last Sunday, and again, I felt a little nervous.  Somewhere inside my head I wondered if the prior week had been a fluke, but I felt just as welcome, comfortable and fulfilled as I did the week before.  It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had a church home.  Actually, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a church home, but I’m open to the possibility that this church could become that for me…and soon.

It’s hard to release the doubt, fear and anger that I’ve held on to for so long, but for the first time since my uncle prayed for me, I felt that God was there.  I felt safe, and I did not feel judged.  Maybe it’s because so many people there have been through similar experiences, or maybe it’s because there are genuine, God-loving people in the world.  Maybe I am just ready to embrace it.

I’m not sure what the future holds for me, but I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about my place there.  When I’m part of that service, it feels like I’m where I’m supposed to be.  It feels like a place in which I can continue to  heal and grow, and for now, that’s more than enough.

Do you attend church regularly?  What made you decide to attend or not attend?

 

 

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24 Comments

  • Reply
    Chelsea
    April 17, 2013 at 2:56 am

    What a beautiful, honest post!
    Thank you for sharing.
    I stumbled across your blog somewhat by accident. I love your writing style, and this “tangent” blog post. Because if you aren’t free to write about whatever you feel like writing about, what good is a blog anyway, right?! 🙂

    Answering your question – yes, I go to Church regularly. I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. And like you, I went through a period in my life – early teens for me – where I very much didn’t want to go. It was boring and I felt like my “friends” there weren’t always people I wanted to be around.
    But as I got older, I realized that while the Gospel is true and perfect, the people are not. Church is not a sanctuary for Saints, it’s a hospital for sinners. Now, like you, I feel like it’s a place I belong. A place I’m supposed to be at, where I can worship my Heavenly Father and feels His Spirit and learn more about my Savior. What a pick-me-up for the week, right! Health is multidimensional, and Spiritual health is just as important as physical health!
    🙂

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  • Reply
    Jane
    April 17, 2013 at 6:14 am

    No, I don’t go to church unless someone I know is getting married, funerals etc. The reason is I don’t believe in God and even though I would believe in something I don’t think I would ever go to church on a regular basis because I really dislike so much that is said in the bible and the church history.

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  • Reply
    Amanda @ Click. The Good News
    April 17, 2013 at 6:34 am

    I have such mixed feelings about church. I still go every week & I believe deeply, but my faith is evolving into a much more well-rounded spirituality that leaves out all the BS, the hatred, the smallness, the judgement that comes with so many modern churches. Having started doing yoga & being exposed to some of the more new-age ideas about God/the universe/our soul has really been enlightening to me & encouraged me to expand my awareness of the Divine. I just finished up a book called Essential Spirituality- which looks at 7 practices that are common to all religions & it’s been fascinating, something I wish that the christian church would focus more on. I’ll be doing a review in the next few weeks. Good luck with trying ot get back into church- I know it can be difficult to find a good one / the right one, but just remember every church is full of regular people, all fighting the same battles in life and none of them are perfect 😉

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  • Reply
    Brooke
    April 17, 2013 at 9:13 am

    My family help found a small church in my former hometown. I was around five when we moved away from there b/c of my dad’s job. They were very active in church there, but my dad made the decision that he didn’t need church anymore to have faith. Being a more traditional family and having only one car, mom stayed home too. We did do Vacation Bible School a few times, but event that stopped. Like you, I had bad memories of church. My mom’s bf went above and beyond for that church and the preacher’s wife would ignore her or ridicule her at every turn. She would be in tears sometimes and I do remember that as a small child. I went to Vacation Bible School one summer with my cousins and an older girl took it upon her self to slap me one evening b/c I was looking under the pew….trying to get my cousin out from UNDER the pew. The worst memory was taking piano lessons in a church. The ladies husband showed up one day and while she was in the bathroom he proceeded to “goose” me twice. I was supposed to be a part of their Christmas pageant singing a solo. When I arrived that night, I found out I would have to be in a back room, alone with him, in the dark. I told them I didn’t feel well and walked out. My intuition at 13 was kicking in. Mom never questioned me.

    In college I joined the praise band thinking my love for music would bring me back to the church, but that didn’t work. But the chaplin in charge of the group helped me realize something. The motto of our band was, “Reject Religion, Embrace Jesus.”

    While I respect those who go to church and their choice of religion, I don’t believe in it. Religion is man made. We created the separation among God’s believers. God said build churches in my name and worship TOGETHER. He didn’t say read my word, interrupt it differently, then build YOUR own church based on that interruption and only bring together those who think the same. I choose to talk to God on my own terms and my relationship with him has grown leaps and bounds with the help of the people he brings into my life. If he leads me back to church one day, I will follow.

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  • Reply
    Peg
    April 17, 2013 at 9:40 am

    It took me a long time to go back to church also. Now I love it. I just had a really hard stress happen in my life. My son tried to kill himself. Here I thought I had done so much for him and instead I think I did too much! I remember my teenage years as always wanting to end it. I never talked to my kids about it. I should have. Now I have to repair myself and my son. Fortunately he is okay and had no long term physical reminders from the attempt. God and the Bible helped me get through the first 72 hours while he was in the hospital. I read the Message Bible all the way to Florida (from PA). 2nd Corinthians really helped me. Having a church family can help give you the support you need but you must be cautious as to who you tell what to. Some like to gossip as you learned but other truly help. Reading the Bible is the best way to get God’s directions. Straight from the source and not interpreted by others. I am glad you found the right church. Every one of them is different depending on WHY the people are there. I find the best churches are the ones where the people are there because they want to be there. Not out of guilt!

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  • Reply
    Tiffany
    April 17, 2013 at 11:04 am

    No, I do not go to church. I think I can have my own faith and happiness without it being preached to about something that does not exist. We all have our own beliefs and I don’t condemn anyone for their beliefs as I would not want them to condemn me for mine. I am a good honest loving happy person and I don’t need to go to any church to know that. But, I do agree with you that a lot of supposed “Christians” are very hypocritical and condenscending. I am glad you were able to find a new loving accepting place to go though. But no, church is not for me or for my family.

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  • Reply
    Sarah
    April 17, 2013 at 11:23 am

    I am currently not attending church, not because I dont want to, but because my husband doesnt. We spend time together as a family on Sunday’s always doing something physical like riding our bikes or skiing in the winter.
    I do have a deep faith in my religion, but I know that sitting in a building is not a requirement for a realtionship with my Savior.
    I believe anything that leads a person to lasting peace is good, and should be nurtured.
    I am happy for you that you are having a good experience!

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  • Reply
    Aly
    April 17, 2013 at 11:51 am

    I do go to church but there was a while where all I felt a lot like you. What really turned me around was the book “Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne (actually all of his books are great). He just really lives how a Christian SHOULD live. Super inspiring. I recommend it!

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  • Reply
    Lynette
    April 17, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    As the first commenter, I am also a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints……and most of the world knows us as “Mormons.” I attend weekly to get my “bucket filled,” but more than that, it is a daily way of life that has brought me peace and joy throughout my life.

    I think you’d fit right in 🙂 Take a few minutes to look around: http://www.mormon.org

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  • Reply
    Trudy
    April 17, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    I do attend church regularly, (almost) every Sunday and Wednesday evenings. I am blessed to have called this my church home for almost 6 years now. What I would say, is that every church has one thing in common…they are full of sinners, in desperate need of God’s grace. I believe what you are feeling in this church is EXACTLY what I felt almost 6 years ago, when I walked into the doors of my church. The presence of the Holy Spirit. There will never be a perfect church, because they are all full of imperfect people. The important thing, IMO, is to find a church home filled with people that desire to become more like Christ each and every day. We will always stumble and shouldn’t expect not to…but a good church home provides us with the people who can help and support us, lift us up when we need encouragement. Iron sharpens iron. Community is crucial.

    I am so happy that you have found somewhere that you are comfortable and happy. I just said a prayer for you and will continue to pray that God meets you where you are!

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  • Reply
    Tammy
    April 17, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    I don’t currently go to church, mainly because my husband doesn’t want to. However, I was raised going to church, so I have a good foundation. We did Sundays, Wednesday nights, Vacation Bible School, sports, etc. through the church, and I have mostly fond memories. Since churches are just microcosms of society, there will be good- and bad-behaving people at all of them. I think that most services have evolved from my childhood so that is no more “preaching at you”. I do miss singing some of the old hymns, though. My favorite is “In the Garden”. I remember this Bible verse, and I think it fits my situation now. Because I was raised with good values; I know how to act in my adult life:
    Proverbs 22:6
    New King James Version (NKJV)

    6 Train up a child in the way he should go,
    And when he is old he will not depart from it.

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    • Reply
      Kenlie
      April 17, 2013 at 3:58 pm

      “In the Garden” is in my head now as the plane prepares to depart. 🙂

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  • Reply
    Jen@HealthyFoodandFamily
    April 17, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Yes, I have always attended Church regularly and can’t imagine my life without it. After my Dad died so suddenly and tragically, Church was pretty much the only thing I had to hold on to.

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  • Reply
    Carina
    April 17, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    You may not be comfortable sharing, but if you are, can I ask what denomination the new church is?

    I grew up Episcopalian, and hubby Catholic. My husband almost always works on Sundays, and I run Sunday mornings, so we basically never go to church (unless we’re visiting our parents (his and mine attend at least once a week), or for a wedding or something).

    But realistically, if I wanted to go, I could — I could go to a later Sunday service, I could find something Saturday night, or find a different group of running buddies (not!). The timing is just an excuse. For me, I have a huge issue with the Dallas Episcopal Diocese over the issue of homosexuality. The hate and hypocricy hurt my heart, and unfortunately, many Texas churches seem to be the same. One of the few things I hate about living here.

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  • Reply
    Tina
    April 17, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    No, I don’t. I haven’t attended church in about 15 years, and have no plans to again. I was raised Byzantine Catholic, went to Catholic school and my late uncle was a priest. While I adored my uncle, I was disgusted by the hypocrisy of the so-called “good Catholics” that I was surrounded by. I may believe in God, but I don’t believe that I have to dutifully attend church (or tithe 10% of my income) to pray.

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  • Reply
    Marie
    April 17, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    I attend temple just about every week. I grew up Roman Catholic and converted to Judaism 14 years ago by choice. That’s right. A Jew by choice. Proud of it and profoundly glad I entered the mikvah! This was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life to date. I never got the ‘Jesus’ concept, or the holy trinity thing, and hated those ‘folk’ masses. I was thrown out of CCD classes three times before the age of 8 for asking questions. How else is a kid (or an adult for that matter) supposed to learn? The church did nothing to keep me engaged or curious or spiritually satisfied. Once I made my obligatory Confirmation I left. Went back a few times, even became a born again. (guess that means I’m dead again?)

    I feel God is personal to each of us. MY version fits me. Your mileage WILL vary. It took me my own 40 year wander through the desert in search of God shlep to figure out that what I’d been searching for all my life was my connection to God. When I told my mother she had a fit. My sister explained it perfectly. She said…pretend God is the Town Hall. You can get there by going up Main Street, or around town, turning left here, right there, bangin’ a U-ey (Mass slang for a U turn), etc. It doesn’t matter HOW you get there, or what you call it/Him/Her, as long as you find YOUR spiritual connection.

    My connection gives me focus, identity, and purpose. I left my religion of birth for one that lets me question, argue, sing, rejoice, dance, finally feel peace, and choose the level of observance that feels right to me. I can go to any temple that I FEEL right being a part of, and not because it’s the once in my neighborhood. I love being a regular congregant in my temple. It IS a family.

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  • Reply
    Diana
    April 17, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    Thank you for your honest posting. I follow your blog based on WL. This one touched me in more ways then one.
    I, too, had my moments of falling away from the church. I have now been going faithfully for many years. I church shopped for months to find the right place to fit. I am now heavily involved in our church participates in missions – its my spiritual gift to want to give back. I do God’s work by helping others.
    Here is a helpful link about thinking of church in a new way, from the United Methodist Church – where I belong.
    http://www.rethinkchurch.org/
    God Bless

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  • Reply
    Shannon
    April 18, 2013 at 9:00 am

    It’s so funny how things seems to pop up at similar times that are relevant to so many people. I grew up going to church every week and being a very active member in our youth group. Church was an important part of my life. When I went away to college I did embrace the fact that I was now able to sleep in on Sunday mornings and only really attended when I was home and even then not always. I “cut my ties” for lack of a better phrase in my last year of college when I was home for a weekend and went to church with my family. The pastor did a sermon on fair weather Christians that only attended on holidays and he specifically stopped me and a few of my college aged friends to ask our thoughts on the topic afterwards. I took that as him making a point about us not being in a pew each week and walked away for a long time.

    Now I am married and have 2 beautiful children. My husband is Jewish and I was brought up in a Presbyterian church. He and I have discussed our thoughts on various points in religion and what we like and don’t like and how there isn’t a good fit, at least for us. AT the same time I want my children to be aware of God and the stories I grew up hearing and loving.

    I am a Christian, and I will not let ANYONE tell me where, when or how to worship. I think it’s great that you have found a church you feel ok with going to, that’s an amazing feeling…I have realized lately that it’s not religion that I am missing though or want my kids to have, its faith, and I can teach them that and share it with them and that warms my heart and soul.

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  • Reply
    RobinH
    April 18, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    I was raised Catholic and found as I got older, I was increasingly less comfortable with the church’s teachings, particularly about women. And I also found myself less and less inclined to believe in a deity. (I’ve been told by Catholic friends, that the church is different now from what it was when I was a child- I can’t testify to that. I’m talking about the church in the 60s and 70s.)

    These days I describe myself as a ‘small “a” atheist’. Or in other words, I don’t myself believe in a god, but I have no stake in what other people do or do not believe. If belonging to a community of faith is something that is comforting and supportive, then I approve of it, even if it’s not something I personally embrace.

    If I have a belief, it’s that human beings have an amazing capacity for both good and evil, for grace and for pettiness. And it’s up to us to choose each day what kind of a person we want to be. What we do affects the world and one another, and we have the power to make the world a better place than we found it.

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  • Reply
    Christina
    April 19, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Nice post Kenlie, thanks for sharing that part of you. This is my first time coming to your blog, I saw you from Chloe’s blog: http://mysearchforahealthierlife.blogspot.com/. So I thought I’d check you out.

    I’m a Christian, and my experiences with church have been good and not so good. I grew up going to church, and I saw that there were different types of churches and church people. One church was stiff, where worship and most of the people from what I saw were doing church and religion. I didn’t feel God’s presence flowing freely in that church. The people were more focused on who stood up first to sing and clap to the choir singing, so that they could join in. It literally looked like a wave, starting from the front and working towards the back. I knew that wasn’t how God wanted to be worshipped. I used to follow along with that routine, I was twelve and it didn’t make me stand out. I fit in. But my mom broke the rule. She is such a powerful influence in my life, not just because she worships freely but because of what she’s shown me about God through her personal relationship with Him. I stopped following and started praising, even if I was one of the only people standing in the back. My praises were to God not men. There are other things that happened with church that I didn’t like. But in all that I learned that I came to serve God. Praise Him. I am a part of the Body of Christ, His Church is my church. My church that I go to is filled with the Holy Spirit and genuine praise. I’m happy that God has shown me what worship is, and what a church is. Churches have problems. But the body of Christ, the Church, would just be a body without Christ’s heart. I seek the heart of God in my life and worsip. Thanks again for the post.

    Oh yeah, I’m Christina ;@)

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  • Reply
    Marla K.
    April 24, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Catching up with your blog after dropping off readership for awhile. Love when you talk about different things and felt particuarly led to comment on this one. Yes, I worship at church. I have been to many different services and the more services/churche over the years. Places where I felt uncomfortable and judged and also places that I felt blessed and welcomed and even somewhere in between. What I have come to realize is that God is working in the midst of every one of these church body in some way. Some he gives the gift of worship, some pastoral care, some missions, some evangelism, etc. I have a home church that I love where I know God has called me to worship many years ago. Yet now I am not certain that my ministry/vision/path is going along the same way. It’s a bit heartbreaking and like losing family. Even though I disagree with many of the church elders and pastor’s I fully realize that God is in control and see it as taking this church body somewhere different. Christ’s church is really a beautiful place to seek him and to seek your place/purpose in His kingdom. And since we don’t always stay in the same place, it makes sense that our need to find a different place to worship and fellowship should change too. Glad to see you found a place where God is using those around you at this time and this place to meet your need and feed your soul. It’s truly a blessing when that happens and I feel make God extremely happy to see your spiritual life being fed. Grace and Peace Kensley. You are amazing!

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    • Reply
      Marla K.
      April 24, 2013 at 10:03 am

      So Many typos… yikes. I really need to read before I post. Especially at the end! Grace and peace to you KENLIE! You are amazing. (Names are important!..my apologies for messing up your name… realized as I re-read my post)

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  • Reply
    Tracy
    April 26, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    What a heartwarming post that brought a few tears to my eyes. Although we were brought up going to church as we got older that priority faded out of our lives. I just didn’t have the same feelings I did when I was younger. My father who you know recently passed away at age 59 yrs. old and had gotten saved when he was 52 yrs. old…which was wonderful, because we do believe in heaven and hell and now I know I will see him in the afterlife…..and sometimes it is hard for me because I feel like “Why does God let all this hard, terrible, heartbreaking stuff happen to good people?” – I question God a lot! I know we are suppose to give it to God, turn it over and he will make everything all right….Seems like I have done that a time or two and my life seems to get worse (or that could be the devil on my shoulder) so Kenlie I do understand how you feel with having a relationship w/ God…I do hope that my faith will get stronger over the years, because lord knows somedays I wonder if I am going to just make it through the week…..Thinking of you!
    Your friend from Alabama~
    Tracy

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    One Year Later…
    April 9, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    […] You can read the whole post here. […]

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