I will admit, I had a very unrequited love relationship with Jesus for most of my childhood. He loved me, I wasn’t quite sure if my feelings were the same. I didn’t know him that well.
Let me put this into context. Growing up I’d moved from attending the Kingdom Hall as a Jehovah’s Witness to attending Catholic high school while going to a Missionary Baptist Church. My Dad had grown up Catholic and my step-mother and sisters are Lutheran. I think I’d covered all my religious bases. God was always around, but I hadn’t had a relationship until a few years ago. I realized that God was universal, but Church wasn’t. There are rituals and hymns that are pretty adjacent. Many of these traditions I didn’t understand, but at the heart of it all God is love.
As Black Christians, we seem to be stuck in how, why, when, where, and what we wear while we praise God that we forget that none of that barely matters to God. He wants our praise and our works.
Where have you been?
Palm Sunday I attended the church I quietly became a member of at the beginning of 2016. A great community of believers who are on fire for God and building his kingdom. I went to my service and then headed across town to my former Missionary Baptist Church. This community of believers were not my cohort. I’d left there at the end of 2015. I left because I was exhausted. I was mentally and physically spent. I’d hit a low point in my faith in God’s people, but not in God. I was serving in the Children’s ministry and had been for over a year. I’d taken on the children’s ministry working with another young mom from the congregation. This was my second time being a teacher in the children’s ministry. I’d served before when my youngest was an arm baby. Her on one hip while teaching school lessons from the Bible and helping build young minds in Christ. That is a story for another time, but I was committed. This weekend, an old Deacon asked me why I’d left, and why couldn’t have waited until the Lord sent who I was looking for here. I’d come and gone over the last 20 years, but I couldn’t say that I would be “back” anytime soon. I politely asked/stated, why must I wait for the Lord to send them here instead of going to a Church that more appropriately fit my needs?
I’d left this time because I’d spent an entire year and a half missing the teaching that comes from hearing the preached word. (Romans 10:14) What I’d found was that my relationship with God had grown stronger totally interdependent of my minimal attendance to actual service. A place where I should be replenished by the word and fellowship with other Christian believers, but I wasn’t. I am a divorced single mom in my mid-30s. I am in the middle of a great career in Marketing. I am an author. I am a good citizen, but I was a unicorn in this place. I was one of the youngest adult parishioners by about 25 years (on the low end and 60 on the high end). All retired or semi-retired. Sunday is the highlight of their week because they come here to be with the people they’ve seen for the last 40+ years. I remember in my 20s being reprimanded for not wearing stockings to church. I was wearing a full suit, but not having on stockings seemed out of order. The mother’s board and missionaries were out done. This place was no longer for me. I couldn’t relate to them other than to give respect for the life they’ve lived and the experiences that they lived through. They also couldn’t relate to me. The Sundays I had to miss when I have to travel for work, why I jet out the door right after service was over, and the modern struggles of parenting. They didn’t understand.
Palm Sunday – I came in Peace
This Palm Sunday, I had a revelation. I’d gone there in peace, but somehow I posed a threat to the normal. (Matthew 21:5) Literally, as I went into the place I’d just publically left just 3 months ago. I’d realized that this place hasn’t grown in the last 20 years because it doesn’t meet the needs of people just like me. The standard 4 hour Sunday services were barbaric. I love the Lord. He knows I do. I don’t however believe that spending half of my Sunday at Church means I love him more. This is one of the reasons young Christians may stay away. I am a Generation Xer. Not a Millennial. I love Millennial, but what we do have in common is the need to get more done is less time. I was married to a PK (a preacher’s kid) who was a church musician. I don’t want to put it all on this, but I bet you that my refusal to spend 8-10 hours in church on Sunday left a rift in our relationship and allowed a wedge between us.
I believe that we are still participating in the good ole days of churchin’ all day that have lead many to flock to alternative religious practices. I don’t think there is a shortage on faith. I think that faith is stronger than ever. What I think we are short of is patience when it comes to being in church like in the days of our great-grandmothers, I can’t take it. I’ve basically done a shift at work on Sunday and it angered me. It made me envy Lutheran/Catholics who sing 3-5 hymns and a homily in 45 minutes flat. Christ is one size fits all, but churches are not. Whether you watch Super Soul Sunday on OWN or attend weekly Bible study online doesn’t make your faith card fade. Or if you read the Bible on an app versus carrying leather bound version with highlighter in the margins, you are not less versed in verses. I think modern technology has reached more people in the margins than ever before. I think it will continue to gather believers and non-believers to meet them at their very need. Often NOT in Church.
During a recent car ride my cousin apologized for listening to Moody Bible radio. “I can’t listen to Gospel Pop music”, she exclaimed. I agreed. I informed her that I stopped listening to “traditionally Black Christian music”, there is a time and a place for it, but when do we evolve from Negro spirituals to faith-filled music that speaks to the diversity in our Christian community? Why should we apologize for our personal preferences?
I needed to be in a place that I felt I could strengthen my education of Christ. Somewhere I could be with other people in the same season of life that I am in. I needed people who have children my children’s age. Folk who go to work every day and need to come to the “filling station of life”, and turn around on a Monday and do it all again. My Christian comrades who are building faith in the day to day life where heroes don’t have capes and mommy sometimes yells because we are running late for the bus.
This is my season to take off apologizing for the way I practice my faith. I encourage everyone to go out and find faith that fits them and their needs. I guarantee that no matter where or how you try on Christ this Easter he will fit. Just don’t be discourage if you have to change where you shop.