WHEN CHURCH IS HARD



I stayed home from church on Sunday, partly as a volunteer effort so that my toddlers could get their naps in. Our church starts just before nap time and while they're usually okay to skip them most Sundays, all signs that morning pointed to naps being a necessity.

Mostly, though, I stayed home because going would have been too overwhelming. The stress I was carrying (all small, primarily unimportant frustrations), combined with the anxiety that Sundays have been bringing more and more often would have been too much.

It seems contradictory to stay away from church when the world weighs heavily and you're just trying to make it through each day. Church should be a refuge; a place to seek solace and respite. In the past, it has been for me. I've missed weeks to months at a time before with babies and illness, and have found myself longing to get back, as though my soul was craving something that could only be found within those walls.

Church is harder now.

And not in the way it usually is going with young children. I don't have a problem getting my kids ready and out the door on time. We actually do pretty well. I'm not bothered that no one sits still and we usually end up out in the hall, eating grilled cheese sandwiches, leaving a trail of colored pencils and stickers behind us. I don't worry what others there might think as my sensory seeker holds my hands and hangs upside down before kicking her legs over, again and again.

I've accepted that this is what going to church as a family looks like now, and will for some time. I've stopped asking, "What's the point of even going?" when we leave early every single week.

That's not what makes it difficult.

Church is hard because the sense of dread makes it near impossible to find any sense of peace.

Church is hard because the anxiety I feel about going and being there makes it hard to focus on anything else.

Church is hard because I want to be there as much as I don't.

Church is hard because the hope that I have for it often clashes with its reality.

But.

I know there's something to it. I'm still clinging to that.

I study the lessons in advance, for the times that I'm not sitting in the nursery. I anticipate every possible question or comment. And I pray. I pray to know what is true. I pray to know if the beliefs I hold close are wrong. I pray to know my place in my religion, and the place for religion in my life.

In the midst of all my uncertainty, on more than once occasion, I've felt deep in my soul that there is a place for me, just as I am. It's not one that is necessarily comfortable or passive. It's not a place of staying silent. But I do belong.

And so now I work to carve out that space- to more fully understand my role as a woman in the Mormon church; a feminist full of questions and doubt, but also hope.

Church is hard. Hope keeps it from being impossible for now.

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