TRP- Church

My relationship with Christ began when I was 12 years old. I went to church when I was a little kid- but that’s all it was… going to church. The church of my early youth was the pew-typical Southern Baptist church with hymns and the non-existent 3rd verse. I had to wear dresses. We made leather embossed leather key chains and paperweights for our parents at vacation bible school, and there was always an Easter egg hunt.

Sometime after my parents divorced and we moved, we stopped going. I don’t know why specifically… We visited different churches sporadically, but that was really all there was to it. Then, around the 5th grade, I made friends with a really neat girl, Katie (who surprisingly was part of the “bad kids”), who I spent the night with on Saturday nights sometimes. She went to this really big church that didn’t sing hymns and it was okay to wear jeans. One Sunday, after I had visited a few times, my mom brought the whole family out. We walked down the aisle to join the church and I remember my mom telling the lady, “and Whitney wants to get saved.”

I did? I didn’t say anything about getting saved, but if all I had to do was say a prayer and get baptized, then why not? It all made sense to me intellectually and I never doubted that any of it was true. So that day, sometime in August, wearing some ugly denim dress with sunflowers on it with the converse high tops I had worn in my Dad’s wedding, I got saved. I remember feeling self conscious standing up there on the platform. It felt so awkward, but I know that I really was saved that day.

Then there’s that word again… “saved.” I’ve never been particularly comfortable with that word in that context. To me it seems hokey, corny… Yes, saved from “eternal hellfire and damnation.” But isn’t it so much more than that…

From that day and on out, I was a part of that church… and a part of that youth group. I like to think that I was one of the core, but I wasn’t. At the time, that church was only 8 or 9 years old and there were kids that had been there since the beginning… and I hadn’t been. I didn’t have the history there… my “faith” wasn’t “deep” enough. I didn’t know enough Bible verses. I felt like an outsider… but I went to church, and I went to camp, and I went to choir. I was trying to be a part of the “it” youth group at the “it” church in the area, and I didn’t fit in.

It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that it wasn’t all about going, or participating, or fitting in, or even Bible verses- but that’s for another day.

Fast forward to now… I go to a church that I think is pretty neat. I can’t necessarily say that I’m “fed” there, but I’ve always felt that it was my responsibility to take care of that myself. The worship is pretty awesome and for the first time- I see a heart for more than just writing a check. These folks get their hands dirty, and that’s encouraging to see. But still, I struggle with belonging.  I wish I knew why this was so difficult for me…

I had originally titled this post “Faith,” but then it occurred to me that talking about church and then talking about the real meat of my faith would be way too much to cover in one post. For me, church and faith have always been too very separate things. Yes… they feed off each other. Church is fueled by faith and the flame is fanned by church, but I still keep them separate in my life.

In one sense this is a good thing. Ryan and I have been burned by church, and I was able to keep from taking that out on God. But by keeping my relationship with God focused mainly outside the church walls, am I limiting my church? Weigh in… I want to hear your thoughts on this one…

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