Thursday, March 12, 2015

My Ghosts Dwell in Church

   I absolutely love churches.
   There's beautiful sculptures on the walls and quiet solitude and loud chatter (depending on denomination), and sometimes it's bright and cheerful, somethings dark and holy, but it's all beautiful. It's like God dwells among us. My heart swells.
   And then my guard leaps into action.
   Because I am haunted in the house of God.

    And your voice still rings out in my mind
    And the thorn still twists down in my side

    My ghosts eke their way out among the self-effacing lyrics in worship, between the emphasis on how wicked we all are, aboard the brief jokes about liberals.
    I didn't understand why I felt their presence here, in church. Sure, the shifting of my beliefs from "fairly fundamentalist" to "fairly liberal" was hard, but why would it traumatize me?
    Really, I was never abused in church. I love my fundamentalist and evangelical friends, and I know they love me. Or do I?
    Here I am, unable to attend a church without panic, without rage, without deep depression. Unable to read the Bible without shriveling up inside, without feeling driven to repeat prayers compulsively until I know I'm a good person.

    Maybe I'm broken, maybe it's the fate
    Maybe it's the moment you said I had changed

    Somehow my survival instincts overtook my life to the point that while I don't need these survival games any longer, I can't turn them off.
    And so I am haunted in church.

    I know all the Bible verses and the (usually evangelical) arguments, oh yes I do.
   "Do not forsake gathering together."
   "If you love God, why wouldn't you want to read His Word?" (Except the Word is actually Jesus, not the Bible, but that's another post).
    I know your arguments, but I can't. do. it.
    I do, however want to do what Jesus said. I want to love others, and I want to love God through learning about his creation and the marvelous people he's made. I want to spend time with people who agree and who disagree with me.
    I think Jesus said loving God and others was the fulfillment of the law, anyways.

    Because I'm moving on, letting go
    Forget the past, I'm giving up the ghost
    All we are is fading stars
    Life's too short to stay where we are

    So instead of experiencing the haunting, lately I've been exposing myself to the radiant sunshine spilling over creation (okay, okay, only in the last week - before that Boston's been a clouded depressing mess of ice). Lately I've been meeting friends of similar and different faiths; lately I've been spending Sunday morning cuddling with the glorious creatures known as cats. Lately I'm trying to make peace with the fact that God is good and that S/He exists despite the change drowning me.
    Lately I've adopted this addicting chorus as my mantra:
    Forgive and let live and move on, tell me that you're gonna make me stronger
    Forgive and let live and move on
    Forgive and let live and move on, tell me that you're gonna make me stronger
    Forgive and let live and move on

    Song below.



  1. Thank you for sharing. You're not alone. I have a lot of anxiety about walking into a church. I get some grief over it with the exact same "do not forsake gathering together" from people who just don't get it. I've been thinking and writing about it a lot lately and I keep running across people with the same challenges.

  2. I LOVE your post. I've church-hopped through a multitude of denominations, too, with significant trepidation and significant yearning. It's good to know we aren't alone. :)