If you're not attending church, you're backsliding
I tried being an apostate for awhile and frankly, it was just too much work. Also, it was painful. I woke up with a hangover one morning and was like: Dude! Why would anyone do this more than once? This is MISERY! I've never had another hangover.
As much as I'd like to pretend to be bad, I really just like being good. I like living a well-ordered life. I like eating a disciplined diet. I like being in bed no later than 9:30pm.
Maybe I'm too old, but none of that reprobate stuff appeals to me. Ever since I quit going to church, though, I've been waiting for the backsliding thing to kick in. Nothing.
I keep wondering: when do I become an official reprobate sinner? When do I achieve bona fide apostate status?
Instead, I feel more connected to God now than ever. It's not at all what I expected. Then again, maybe that's because for all my life I've heard that not attending church=backsliding. Church attendance has always, I believed, been directly related to one's spiritual health.
But this has not happened for me. Oddly enough, I want to engage my relationship with God more. I don't know exactly why this is, but I have a few theories:
- No competing messages. Whenever I went to church, I always ended up hearing sermons about how I wasn't measuring up or doing enough. My relationship with God, it seemed, was always dependent on my being willing to volunteer for the church pancake breakfast, help out in Sunday School, or whatever. Now? I just sorta talk to God every Sunday morning and sit in silence. It's weird. I can feel His love without the interrupting messages of "You're Not Good Enough."
- Reading my Bible without editorial. I've been slowly working my way through the Gospels. I can't tell you how nice it is to just read the text without having a pastor's individual interpretation imposed over it. It makes me realize how fraudulent it is to approach Scripture with a preconceived agenda/topic and then try to find verses to match--which is pretty much the kind of preaching that's popular everywhere today.
- God's love. The longer I stay away from church, the more convinced I become of God's love. For me. For others. For the whole, whole world. I can feel a softening in my heart, an openness, an acceptance. I fought this for so long. I thought being accepting was weak. I feared engaging people from different belief systems. But now I'm beginning to wonder if compassion takes more strength than needing to be right all the time.
I have to be honest, this change hasn't been easy. Going to church every Sunday is so ingrained in my DNA, it feels like I'm defying my genetic makeup. But what was also ingrained in my DNA was that I was a worthless, vile sinner worthy of Hell-fire.
So, yeah. I need time to reconfigure my religious DNA--if that's possible.
I'm hopeful that someday I'll be able to go back to church. For now, I'm calling this little sabbatical: Genetically Engineered Faith.
Who knew a petri dish could feel so cozy?