Why Worship Scares Me   Leave a comment

It was the last straw.  Pastor Rick had already cancelled the men’s group, just because, and it was the only reason I was attending his church, the one touch of real grace.  Without that solace, I found myself struggling to survive the Sunday service, trying to keep my soul intact under a less than gentle preacher.  Then last month he cried out, “I can’t STAND negative people!  I won’t have anything to do with them!”  That flash of accidental irony pushed me out the door.  I can’t listen to a preacher who hates others, publicly, in a sermon… especially when his contempt may be directed at depressives like me.  That was not a slip of his tongue, like dropping an F-bomb, but a slip of his mindset spilling out in the open, a thought so comfortable that he didn’t flinch to hear himself say it, out loud, in the pulpit.  Perhaps I’m too sensitive… but if so, I need to stand up for that vulnerable part of myself.

This morning I sat in a different worship service and felt the singing stir my emotions, but I ducked tightly inside myself like a threatened turtle.  In the stadium or theater, my emotions splash out with abandon, so why does it feel unsafe in church? Because my feelings about basketball are incidental, but my feelings about God are deep and core and private.  In the genteel South of my upbringing, only real friends were invited from the living room into the kitchen, but God alone got into the bedroom.  Shared intimacy requires safety, because the deeper in you go, the more power you wield for good or harm.

I realize that many folks have a public persona to protect their true hearts from danger: polite banter, chumminess, faux cheerfulness and interest.  They invite you so warmly into the yard in order to divert you from the house.  But I was born with a glass facade–you can see everything from the yard.  If I don’t feel safe with you, I will give you a tight smile and a polite nod before averting my eyes because I’m no good at using politeness as a shield.  I can go for about three sentences before tripping into a genuine heart issue.

However, the real vulnerability for me comes not from reporting about my feelings, but actually showing my feelings.  I can emotionally keep folks at arms length while talking all about my feelings, but to express my feelings directly is the real risk, allowing them to react to my heart rather than my words and thoughts, which are my own protective layer against the harshness of others.  For me intellectual validity has always been an escape, but emotional validity a pitfall.  If you invalidate my ideas, I made a mistake, but if you invalidate my emotions, I AM a mistake.  Showing my feelings invites you into my heart, and once you’re inside, I’m no longer safe.  A new church is a new challenge emotionally, especially for those of us who aren’t good at shallow connections.

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Posted July 13, 2014 by janathangrace in Personal

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