A new friend of mine recently said, “For this particular week, my experience with church is through conversations on Twitter. And that’s okay.”
At first glance that sounds a little crazy, but I completely understand what she means.
I used to want to denounce the entire World Wide Web as a threat to meaningful face-to-face relationships. For now, I’m embracing it as the one thing keeping me from giving up on them entirely.
From the #YesAllWomen campaign to conversing with other “spiritual orphans” via Twitter, I felt more validated sitting in front of my computer at Scribbles Coffee this week than in any pew over the last few months. While the Internet can’t be a permanent substitute for a tangible community, it’s far better than nothing as I struggle to regain the faith I once had and my confidence in the church as a whole. It’s more convenient, for now, to click into a forum or utilize a trending hashtag and connect to people who understand the difficulties of a specific journey than keep up small talk during coffee hour.
But I don’t want this to be an excuse to become a hermit. This is a temporary solution for now while I regain my bearings. I have become cynical and jaded, but not to the point where all churches are stereotypical and shallow. My real reason for avoiding a brick-and-mortar church is I’m afraid. The journey from “Nice to meet you” to “I know I can count on you in a personal crisis” is long, sometimes tedious, and terrifying. More than that, it’s time-consuming and requires some effort. When God and I argue, I tell him I’m more than willing to make that effort myself, but I don’t trust others to put in the same amount.
Lately I feel God’s response to that is, That’s no excuse not to keep trying, Beth.
And he’s right.
It’s all about making baby steps. Community doesn’t just happen overnight.
Baby Step #1: Stop believing all people are assholes (check. Kinda).
Baby Step #2: Stop assuming all Christians have a shallow understanding of grief, depression, and loneliness. Stop assuming that all Christians will treat the symptoms and not the problem by throwing bumper-sticker theology at me (Working on that check).
Baby Step #3: Understand that grace doesn’t have to be a huge demonstration of something. Grace can also be not punching people in the face when they do throw bumper-sticker theology at me (“Everything happens for a reason!”). Grace understands that most people mean well when they say these things. They want to help, but don’t know how (read this way more articulate blog post that summarizes my feelings perfectly).
Baby Step #4: Get back into the church. You need it, and it needs you.
Again, still working on that “check.”