I started attending Imago Dei Community with my kids last summer, marking my return to church. I have had my share of negative church experiences, so pedestrian in nature that it probably doesn't warrant mention, but I doubt that will keep me from writing about them the rest of my life. I don't think capital C church is the 'evil empire'. I stayed away for a decade because I was heart broken and I couldn't get over it. Believe me, I tried. It took me about another five years to find a church home. I finally feel like I belong somewhere, attend regularly and even volunteer sometimes.
I still find myself hesitant to commit to church events. Some of what keeps me home is learning to manage my new life with chronic health problems--I no sooner say I am going to something, and I don't feel well enough to follow through. It's also awkward the first few times. I don't know what to expect when I attend a Good Friday service or my daughter volunteers to read at Advent for hundreds of people. The kids and I just push through until we become familiar I guess. So when I decided to attend a corporate prayer night Monday, I didn't know what it would look like. Guys in ties? Powerpoints? Corporate threw me off a bit. I was pleased it was an interactive event, until I read the word 'confession' on the program. It sounded scary and I started thinking maybe I could quietly leave. I stayed.
One of the portions of the night was focusing on the heaviness of sin in our lives, the way we often feel no relief from the burden of sin. We dipped our hands in black paint and stained a sketch of Christ with our prints. Instead of immediately washing our hands, we sat with wet paint, the discomfort. We later went into another room where we washed up and took communion, being clean again.
I haven't done anything like that in years, an exercise meant to deepen my faith, to open me up to prayer. I felt like I was going through the motions-- that I was yearning for something more, something I couldn't quite reach. But I was there.