For the longest time, I hated church. I called myself a Christian, I prayed to God, and I believed in the existence of a Savior. But I still despised the church. Sixth grade onwards, I regarded myself as an outsider. I physically felt a wall enclosing me and disconnecting me from fellowship and from normal human conversations with church people. I remember walking towards the worship music, hearing the soundtrack to my anxiety. I would quickly walk to my seat – the very back row on the left side. I read, or more so pretended to read, as I patiently waited for my inner torture to be over. I knew no one to talk to me, and to the few people who did, I was quiet and indifferent towards. I admit, I as the “outsider” only made things worse by not approaching people first or by not being more friendly to anyone. I just sat in my seat, counting minutes, glancing at others, and feeling horrible on the inside. And everything felt so much worse because I knew church was supposed to be a place of gathering, of love, of fellowship, and there I was in the midst of it all, torturing myself with these thoughts. Every church retreat I went on from then on, I cried afterwards. I remember telling my mom, after one specific retreat, that this wasn’t a church, this wasn’t a place of God – it was hell.
After that retreat, I stopped going to my youth group in general. I went upstairs to the adult service, but I couldn’t understand a word. I wanted to be a “Christian” but I didn’t want to go to church. I wondered why I couldn’t be a Christian by myself. Although I was hopelessly lost and drowning in my own thoughts sitting at church, I’m so happy I never fully gave up going to church. But anyways, tenth grade came along, and a mission trip to Ecuador was announced. I was unsure of going, but I wanted to. And so I signed up. There were too many people signed up for the trip, but in the end I went. There were weekly meetings of course that I had to go to, and in the beginning, I minded those too. I didn’t like sitting in a room with people I knew but pretended not to. I guess one of the reasons why I fell for my boyfriend right now was that he was really the only one to constantly give me a chance. I told and thanked him many times for that – that had he not constantly tried to be a friend to me, I might have given up on church forever. He talked to me as if I were already his friend, though I knew nothing about him and in that way he really did become my friend. One of the only friends I considered at church. And in this way, he encouraged me to come back to youth group or at least to the college ministry, and I went back. I still felt uncomfortable at youth group, but at least I had some sort of human communication with people while I was there now, instead of hiding behind the thin covers of a rectangle.
I came back to church as a more confident soul, not a shy and withering spirit. I started to love church for a while and fell apart for some time, and then I went off to college – a different story with a completely different atmosphere. While I fell apart for some time, I’ve learned a few truths. A quiet church is not necessarily a bad one. And sometimes, as an “outsider,” you trap yourself in a narrative of hate and torment when reality is honestly indifferent and not as unkind to you as you are to yourself.
Today, coming back to church unannounced, I don’t know… I felt the same feelings again that I had felt when I went through that narrative of self-confinement. And I remembered my pain and the hopelessness I had felt, even though I knew the narratives that were being played out in my head were untrue. And of course, I was a stranger who came for an hour today, but I’m a lot more conceited than I realize. I need to get over myself and the drama that I cause in my mind. But this is my confession that I once hated a church that I thought despised me back. And like a lot of other people, I’m fighting between my perceptions of reality and that of Christ’s. I’m sorry to those who’ve reached out and I’ve rejected in the past, and I’m sorry for being such a naive, conceited person who’s never realized anything outside of her own realm. But in that way, I know that this is just one evidence of God’s endless grace present in my life. No matter how many times I wrap myself up and choke myself to near death, He constantly comes down to save and to show mercy.