I started writing such a protracted comment to this blog post, I shifted gears and am dumping out here what came to mind.
See, someone I am close to went to a christian school. And the experience is similar, so many having walked away from church. And subsequently became very angry with God about incidents that no one wants to ever to experience.
There are thoughts that are turned over repeatedly in ones head. Thoughts looking for a conversation.
There are feelings lapping the beaches of the heart. Emotions kept in check. Anger, grief, fear and precipitant numbness that all must be saved for the proper moment.
And when the proper moment does not come... or if it does come and it is too scary to give voice to the things inside, because it might involve strong emotion that is not typical to pleasant light chatter. The listener may just opt to back away slowly, and decide this is more than they can handle. And the heart that has everything pent up might easily decide it is much easier the hold in what is there than to risk/trust speaking (understandably). And the road to bitterness has begun.
And if one belongs to a faith community, one might wonder, who can help? Does anyone see? And when the grip on why people believe in God at all begins to become too heavy to sustain grasp, and faith erodes and slips away... is there anyone there? Anyone persistent enough? Anyone unshockable enough? Anyone with any time? Anyone with whom one would want to speak?
What is the purpose of a church if not partially to sustain the weary and celebrate with the joyous?
I remember asking questions and having people be worried when I asked them, and maybe I just imagined them making some space between themselves and I. I was in my 20's. I remember asking a woman that if every good gift was from above, why couldn't I marry my Jewish boyfriend? She gracious admitted to not having an answer. I appreciated her honesty.
More recently I have met the unflappable. I appreciate them very much. I was struggling with understanding why God would have created evil, if he indeed created everything. Her answer was subtle, but I could tell my line of questioning didn't cause her any panic whatsoever.
I know that God is ok with wrestling, even if it weirds other people out. I do wish church felt like a safe place to wrestle more often than it does. I wish many things about church.
Recently a person in our meeting spoke out saying that anxiety was due to a lack of faith. A double punch. The misery of anxiety and an indictment that it is your own fault. I did not hear Jesus' voice in that. But such is the way of community and congregation.
For my own, I accept that the purpose of church is very humble. It is merely carving a space and time to show up. And the best and highest use of that time, and the time after that is just to be a good thing to those around you who need it. It is being available. I think every faithful follower must get to a point where attendance is just obedience. And really, for me that hasn't been a bad starting point.