Connection

Another week down. I am ashamed to admit that I forget I have this blog. I can glean two insights from that truth: one, that I no longer blog incessantly/obsessively, and two, that I am most likely in one of my drawing in phases.

I go through these phases periodically. I find myself just tired. I haven’t been as active on Twitter lately, either. The bulk of my Internet use of late has been the occasional retweet and the habitual pinning of sewing and knitting patterns on Pinterest.

But in the interests of accountability, I thought I should share briefly about my new endeavor. It’s nothing dramatic for most people, but for me, it’s huge.

I joined a women’s Bible study.

[Cue the dramatic music.]

This move was a difficult one for me, especially in the midst of a “drawing in” phase. I didn’t do it because I felt like I was missing out on something or because I have friends there or anything else. I did it because . . . well, I honestly still haven’t figured it out. I guess I just felt like I should. I had some sense that I should be there.

This particular study group has been meeting one weekday morning a week for twelve years, and I’ve always found a reason not to attend–small children still at home, my freelancing schedule, limited emotional resources to pour into something like that, disinterest in the topics, etc. My children are all in school now, and I’m no longer writing (though I certainly have plenty of work to do on American Heritage Girls and other things), so my practical excuses were at an end. I decided that I should probably give it a shot, if for no other reason than the value of accountability in pursuing my own personal time in the Bible.

But there were other reasons as well–ones that are much harder to talk about. This past year has been so painful for me for so many reasons. In addition to shutting down all of my writing endeavors, I also found it necessary to say goodbye (or at least “see you later”) to a lot of people who I found too draining on my spirit and psyche. Many of those people were writers, sadly. I said goodbye to a community, and that was not easy to do, but it was a community where I didn’t feel safe. In truth, I haven’t had a community where I could be safe and “unfiltered” in a very long time. So I guess the point is that I had to go looking for community.

Last week, the lesson focused on how vital it is to be connected with other believers, to be “in fellowship,” to have “koinonia.” And I fell apart. I confessed to this group of women who barely know me that I know I’m hard to love, that I don’t fit the mold of a proper church lady, that I fully expect rejection by the church.

And lest you think that they gathered around me in a big group hug . . . well, no. They didn’t. Which was fine, because I didn’t expect it. There were verbal assurances that it was okay to be introverted and everything, but mostly, I felt like these other women didn’t really understand what I was saying. Mostly I kept hearing that “we need connection, we need fellowship, we’re made for that, blah, blah, blah.” And I tried, in my faltering, blubbering, tearful way to say that I just can’t be that way.

Listen, church. Maybe you don’t mean it this way, but when I hear “we need fellowship,” all I can see is another month full of potlucks. When I hear “we have to be connected to other Christians,” all I feel is threatened by judgments that I know will come down on me once people know me. When I hear “iron sharpens iron,” I hear “your salvation depends on you being with other Christians.”

I suppose all I’m saying is that for some of us, connection doesn’t look like a calendar full of Approved and Sanctioned Church Events (TM). For me, just having five or six close friends who share my beliefs is probably enough to satisfy my need for connection and social interaction. I get teaching online and through reading. Mr. P and I have long theological discussions. I have two or three online friends with whom I can discuss deeper issues of faith and art and the tension that lies in that whole subject. My mom and I are close, and we talk about a lot of the practical issues around raising children to be men and women of faith. And I have a close friend with whom I can discuss those things as well, even though we differ on some things in our approaches.

So why am I there?

I still don’t know. I’ve gone two weeks now, and I haven’t had any kind of epiphany or breakthrough, really, last week’s blubbering aside. I have mostly spent the last few weeks with my stomach tied in knots in anticipation of going. To be candid, that’s probably what triggered the blubbering–not so much the topic, but the tension in my stomach and my spirit. It’s possible that any topic could have triggered the blubbering.

Yet I still feel drawn to go.

I still haven’t decided whether to go back this week. I can think of a million reasons not to and only one in favor–that I have this urge to be there. It’s possible that it’s just simple obedience. What I fear, though, is that I’m just falling into another checklist theology. I don’t want to be a checklist believer–a follower of Christ who slavishly marks off all the “dos” on her list because they are all “what a good church lady does.” I want to love the Lord with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength. And I fear that I will end up resenting the Lord because of random checkboxes put on me by the church, not by Him.

So I suppose the question is . . . are these the church’s checkboxes or the Bible’s checkboxes?

I will admit to having a lot of personal baggage about women’s study groups in general and about interaction with church people. I have just always felt rather like a black sheep or ugly stepchild in the church. So it’s entirely possible that this is just me and I just need time to get over my issues and be a participant in the movement I am called to be part of–this movement based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

For the moment? For the moment . . . I suppose it’s just more obedience.

Till next we meet . . .

J M

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3 thoughts on “Connection

  1. Jane Wells (@2jewells)

    Dear Friend,
    I know the loneliness of not fitting in. I have felt that way most of my life. My best friend is probably my mother and the people I connect with the most are rarely in the same town I am.
    Even so, the fellowship of church ladies has played important roles in different stages of my walk. Even if I never “clicked”, there is something undefinable in learning together. And perhaps your need to go is not for your edification at all – but that you may be a teacher from the back of the class, adding a depth of experience and wisdom the other woman might never know on their own.
    Go again this week. Keep checking that urge to attend with God – to make sure it’s from him. And keep your ears open. Perhaps you are merely there as an observer of humanity – because we know our God never wastes an experience!
    Jane

    1. jmpadoc Post author

      You are right about that, Jane–all of it! And you do make a good point–we don’t always know why we’re there or who might be listening. I had a conversation with a young man at camp this summer, and while I didn’t change his mind about anything, I reminded myself that two young women were listening to the whole thing. Perhaps the whole conversation was for them, not for me or for him.

      Thank you for the encouragement. It is helpful to know that others walk this road alongside me (even if we’re separated by miles and time zones).

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