I always miss my Daniel when he is away, but there is a part of me that longs for those hours after bedtime in a quiet house, just me, a candle and a fireplace and my words—a combination of the heard, the written and the read. My days always start better when I am up first, early and alone. On these days as I walk the hills with my iPod or open blinds and brew coffee, I have time and space to think over the day, to breathe deeply and prepare. To move, to stretch, to read, to plan. Before everyone needs me.
But when we moved away from our family, to a place where we knew no one, there was nothing restorative about that kind of solitude. I learned I needed community—if not friends, if not confidantes—a village. People who understood my station in life, if not yet me. I had thought this would come first in the form of church. And strangely, we’ve been here seven months and that’s still not the case (though I think it’s getting closer).
I know “church” is a word that doesn’t make everyone feel warm or welcome or loved. And I really do get it. For years, as a pastor’s kid, I saw the church from the inside, and it often wasn’t pretty. Thank goodness God and love are not confined to the houses we've built for them.
I’ve been in Baptist churches, a Pentecostal church, non-denominational churches, between churches, and on the outskirts, which is where I’ve found myself lately. Though we have become regular attenders of a particular church, that’s been it. I’ve never been hung up on the physical spaces—having attended churches in so many forms—but that’s about what it’s been for us so far here. A place to go. And that is all.
In Baltimore, more often than the place we went on Sunday, Church happened on a weeknight. We met in noisy, crowded kitchens over collaborative meals that were usually ill-planned but always seemed to be the perfect mix, always seemed to be enough. We met in good times and sadness; we brought questions and doubts, many that never found answers. We were so very different. But together, we were the best kind of family. We chose to come together; we chose to stay together. We chose to show up for each other--for our families-- on birthdays and bad days, for new babies, hurt babies, lost babies. In times of mourning and loss, on first days and moving days. We miss them most days.
Ronald Rollheiser says, “Church is … walking to God within a community. To attempt to make spirituality a private affair is to reject part of our very nature and walk inside of a loneliness that God himself has damned.”
I’m not sure this is meant to be taken quite as literal as it can seem. I think there is need and room for both private and communal spirituality. I can’t always reconcile my craving for solitude and space to dwell and ponder with my need to know and be known, my desire to process out loud.
This doesn't look the same for everyone, I know. For me, lately, it has meant finding community with similarly disoriented women, and with others who are surer of their steps. It’s meant finding people to listen to and be authentic with, even if I’m not always sure I’ll be accepted. Just now, through our church, it’s starting to mean our family is finding individuals and families to share our meals and stories and lives with.
We still have a place we enjoy going on Sunday mornings. It’s a place that welcomes anyone, no matter their background or attire. We are finding it’s a place where people believe everyone matters and they actually live that out, here and all over. We still believe this belonging is important (and if you live near us, you can sit with us any time).
But I have lived the last seven months in a different kind of Church…one where we seek and ask and walk to God together. We listen to heartaches, offer hope, sit in stillness, share laughter, wisdom and time, make food for the weary, offer and accept kindnesses to and from near strangers, and care for each other’s babies.
I still think it’s hard to be vulnerable. Scary to be authentic. Lately I have relished stolen moments writing alone at my new favorite coffee house while Daniel stays with the girls. I still value my solitude. But there’s just no reason to live unknowing and unknown. The upside-- being loved well and learning to do the same-- is just too great. Here's hoping we find our people, however beautifully flawed we all may be.