Take Me to Church

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I grew up in a LOT of church.  For years, I even played music professionally in church both as a singer and worship leader.  

We grow up learning to value and live by belief systems passed down to us from the cultures we grow up in.  For me, this was steeped in Evangelical church culture as my parents were both involved in ministry for as long as I can remember.  This was my “first structure,” as Richard Rohr defines it in one of my favorite books about the spiritual journey called Falling Upward.  This initial infrastructure for belief informed most of mine and our family’s early life. I’m eternally grateful for it.

However, part of the self and truth-discovery process always involves holding those first, hand-me-down values up to the light to grapple with and establish our own set of convictions and beliefs.  Often they are an extension of those early establishments but sometimes, they take on an entirely different tone.  Stepping into our truth is an ongoing process and one that involves doubt, questioning, discomfort, time, debate, and a generous helping of self-compassion—on repeat.  

I say all this only because my spiritual landscape has not included church much at all in the last several years.  Instead, I’ve found a soft landing pad in the arms of rest, nature, loving relationships, and plenty of downtime time (involving books, a journal, and the glorious drip of caffeine).  Going church-rogue has honestly felt expansive, and at the same time like I’m missing out.  On what?  Keep reading….

So the same is true for live shows and funerals.  I know, weird. Despite the fact that I didn’t grow up going to a ton of concerts or funerals, I’ve developed a bit of laziness around both.  I mean come on, you may know exactly what I mean if you spent most of your twenties and early thirties at a late night show in a packed, dark, and often smelly venue somewhere in Nashville.  

Maybe I’m just getting old and cynical, but these days I’d rather stay home, cook dinner, take a bath, and get some serious shut-eye.  Don’t get me wrong; music is a big part of my life…it’s with the getting out part that I’m on the struggle bus.  

I may have a pounding shame hangover after admitting this next one, but I shy away from funerals too.  Of course, not if it’s a family member or loved one (I’m not a monster.)  I’m talking about the ones where I wouldn’t be missed if I didn’t show.  My thoughts regarding these are typically, “I don’t want to crowd or add any additional stress for the family” and “Do they really want me there?  I’ll just be in the way.”  

And then there is that obvious element of deep pain and fear I have surrounding this minor little fact of life called mortality.  Let’s face it; it’s easier to simply opt out.  

Or is it?

Why do church, concerts, and funerals matter so much?  In an oversimplified nutshell, here’s why:

Beyond belief, beyond preference, beyond discomfort, we MUST find ways to show up and place our unique thumbprint on this undeniably grounding root system of collective human connection by touching moments of joy and pain.  

There is enough bad news cycling each day thanks to 24-hour news.  You get it; good news is slim pickins’.  But the worst thing in the world is for me to throw my hands up, peace out, and judge the world through my disconnected lens of comfort, isolation, and cynicism.  

 In Braving the Wilderness, Dr. Brene Brown renders,

 “We’re in a spiritual crisis, and the key to building a true belonging practice is maintaining our belief in inextricable human connection.  That connection-the spirit that flows between us and every other human in the world-is not something that can be broken; however, our belief in the connection is constantly tested and repeatedly severed.  When our belief that there’s something greater than us, something rooted in love and compassion, breaks, we are more likely to retreat to our bunkers, to hate from afar, to tolerate bullshit, to dehumanize others, and, ironically, to stay out of the wilderness.”

She later shares the key to maintaining this belief and connection to humanity lies in our willingness to show up for collective moments of joy and pain so that we can witness this stunning human connectedness.  

We brand into our bones the hope of human connection when we show up for moments of joy and pain alongside fellow travelers.  Sure, we’re all unique when you zoom in close, but if we zoom out with a wide-angle lens, we see the remarkable footprint of humanity—a desire to belong.

It’s being moved to tears beholding a stadium full of people singing the National Anthem.  It’s holding the hand of a grieving stranger sitting next to you in the pew on Sunday morning. It’s screaming “with or without you” at the top of your lungs when U2 comes through town.  For me, especially around this time of year, it’s leaving the Nutcracker ballet for the twentieth time completely inspired alongside all the other frustrated ballerina’s in the room that will dream of Sugarplum Fairies for days.

These moments all feel like church to me.  I’m going.  Who’s with me? 

Love & Gratitude,