I realise by blogging about the Church, I risk all kinds of negative feedback, but it's hard to sit on your hands forever and the keyboard calls.
My situation at the moment is that I am currently one of the millions of churchless believers in the world, still loving God but nomadic and isolated by my inability to fit into a warped mold.
I became a Christian in the tiny town of Market Harborough, England in the year 2000 and was quickly embraced into a good church made up of people who loved God and kept their theological argument largely to themselves. The pastor was a solid guy and offered sound teaching, which has carried me through the subsequent fifteen years. He once gave a preach about love in the church and played a song by the Black Eyed Peas, Where is the Love? He didn't endorse the song, but he asked the question; where in this church, is the love?
Fifteen years on and I find myself in no-man's land in New Zealand, a country which claims Christianity but attacks its own founding values like the sea erodes the land, slowly, deliberately and constantly. The national flag is under threat of change and following that, will be the national anthem, changed from its current prayer, to some politically correct tune which effectively removes God from this country once and for all.
God of nations, at thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices we entreat,
God defend our free land...
From a blessed Christian upbringing of six years in my safe church in England, I was thrust into a world of megalomaniacs and power brokers. I have witnessed spiritual abuse, moral abuse, financial recklessness and pride, sitting next to me in the pews of the NZ church. The buzz word is 'growth' and everyone wants your bum on a seat in their place and your bank account squirting money into the coffers so they can grow, grow, grow until they're fit to bursting and then they can build and grow, grow, grow some more. Love rarely comes into it, unless you're bank rolling that particular activity.
I found a safe, godly knot of women at my first church and I have stuck with them through it all. We are largely disenfranchised, meeting in the lounge of a church which slowly dies around us and struggles to fund itself from the receding congregation. I watched it move from a state of thriving and beginning to touch the surrounding community, to dying a slow, painful death through megalomaniac style leadership and the sin of personal pride. It breaks my heart but it's a scenario I've seen too many times here and I bowed out gracefully before I got wounded in the inevitable crash, as I did before; and the time before that.
I don't think I'm a bad person. I'm happy to serve, to wash up after Alpha or give financial support to a valuable ministry. I'm not a people-person by any stretch of the imagination, so give me a wall to paint by myself and don't stick me anywhere out front. I'll happily share my gifts. I can paint murals or perform administrative duties, I have time on my hands and am a famed OCD cleaner. So they shove me in the Sunday School because nobody else wants to be there. It's not gonna end well. It never does.
I sell my paintings for money, but they're ok in that department thanks. Mrs So-and-so is better and has that covered. I can't stand inane conversation, my life is too short, so they have me on the door, handing out leaflets and smiling like a zombie. I won't hug strangers and I don't like talking all that much. Epic fail.
So I stand around and watch the 'doers' burn out one by one and still they don't need or want me. I won't be in their in-crowd because I don't know what the secret password is. We won't be the golden family, because we're not recently saved and still glowing from the flush of all that attention. We were once, fifteen years ago in a different land but not here, not now.
I'm nervous of new churches. I'm meant to be in the body of Christ but it neither wants nor needs me. It picks through my qualifications and largely settles on my husband's wallet or his endless IT skills. He can fix their computers and pay their bills. Unless I want to lead a ladies ministry or head up the children's church, I'm kinda redundant.
Yesterday, I posted a picture online of a tee shirt I made but don't yet have the courage to print or wear. The response was overwhelming from other disenfranchised Christians who would be willing to pay good money for it. I was astounded that there were people like me out there, drifting around and digging in their bible for answers about why they don't fit either.
My husband says he won't sit next to me if I wear it to a new church. It know it makes me look bitter and twisted in my Christian outlook and that's a bad thing. But I'm desperate to wear it. I want people to say, "Nice tee shirt," and smile, but I know they won't. They'll stay as far away from me as humanly possible and hope I never darken their door again. "Did you see that woman on Sunday?" they'll ask and describe my tee shirt, but not me.
I miss talking about God and hearing little stories that bless my heart; like how He was there when someone's car broke down in the rain, or He softened a mother's heart towards another in the playground. I want to hear how He found the lost contact lens or 'lost' the text which should never have been sent. I know about the big stuff. I know God provides airfares and sends lost sons home to frantic mothers. I know He gives peace in the worst of times and direction in the storm. I've seen it with my own eyes. It's the human contact I'm missing but at this rate, I'm doomed to sharing truth and love in whispers in work corridors and supermarket aisles.
Am I missing something?
Where is the love?