I always go to church, even when I am highly ambivalent and deeply angry. Even when I’m tired and stressed. Even when I’m in a far away city and no one would know if I wasn’t there. Even when I can’t concentrate and my mind is in a thousand other places. Even when I feel nothing and I’m numb through the whole service.
I never turn down the opportunity for church, and I have never chosen not to go because I wasn’t feeling it.
For me, faith and church are so tightly bound together that I can’t seem to unravel myself. I think maybe it’s supposed to be that way. For me, deciding not to go to church would be like a public rescindment of any belief at all. It would be the final surrender, the absolute giving up of all hope. I’ve never felt that far gone, never felt that devoid of the promise of faith.
In the same way that I feel that not going to church would be the final severing of the cord of faith, I believe that church is the salve for that frayed cord. It’s frustrating and confounding that this thing that has caused me huge pain and that has pulled me away from God could also be the thing that heals me and carries me back to God.
I attend a liturgical church, and there are many reasons for this choice.
The liturgy makes me feel like a whole person. I’m not shushing these parts of me that don’t love God with my whole heart and don’t love my neighbor as myself. I’m not sweeping under the rug the ways I have sinned by doing the wrong thing and the ways I have sinned by not doing the right thing. I don’t pretend they’re not there; I say them outright.
If I can’t rightly say that I believe in the conception of the Holy Spirit and the life everlasting, I can at least agree in prayer that I have done life wrong that week.
There are always at least a few things I can mumble out in earnest.
I get honest about my darkness and my sorrow and my repentance and there’s a whole tribe of people doing it right along with me.
No one is good or bad at liturgy—it levels the ground—makes mountains lie down and valleys rise up. You can’t be any better at kneeling than the next guy. This is a congregational effort, and I am forced and allowed to blend right in.
I am not just joining myself with this one individual parish; I am folding myself into generations of saints past and centuries of saints future. I’m marking my tiny presence on a vast timeline, being reminded that this marriage of faith and doubt do not belong to me alone—I share them with millions. I take turns holding and being held up in faith, resting on the assurance that if these rhythms of grace were good enough for those saints of old, they can be good enough for me, too.
Guy is a senoir majoring in psychology. She can be reached at GuyLN@jbu.edu.