Often times I am asked by well-meaning Christians and some nosy ones, as well, about my church affiliation.
Sometimes I feel as though I must pass their 'Test' before any further conversation can follow.
I must be pigeon-holed and categorized to be understood. They must know to whom I belong. I can sometimes feel a little judgment coming on...
I am pretty squirmy on this topic. As you get to know me, you will understand why.
"Church" has been a pretty squirmy experience from the start...and I don't just mean the kind of squirming in the pews that we generally do as little children, though that should have been a tip-off.
But I honestly don't have the kind of answer that anyone is particularly pleased with...and I've been working on this for a long time now.
It was never my intention to become the kind of believer that I wound up becoming, but after awhile, you 'know 'the Voice'. And you follow...
Don't worry, I'm not hearing voices...I'm talking about the 'still, small Voice'.
It has been an offbeat journey, to say the least, but it has also been potent and authentic. That works for me...
But back to the question... In the kindest, softest way that I can, I tell them that I have come to understand that it's ALL church.
I count myself lucky if they don't quite hear me and move on. But that almost never happens.
"Why, what do you mean?!" they ask with a puzzled expression. Or... "Oh yes, I believe that, too." (not knowing a thing about what they just said)
"But, WHERE do you GO to church?" they persist . "You HAVE to go somewhere!"
"Well dear heart," I say, " Right here and now, where we stand is 'Church' even though it's Tuesday at 2:15 pm."
I am already categorized as some sort of heretic or new-ager.
Not good enough, I realize.. It's going to be another tricky encounter.
"Well, where do you go on Sunday MORNING?" (as if I'm some idiot child)
By now they have had just about as much nonsense from me as they are willing to take.
Taking my life and what's left of my reputation in my hands, I reply along these lines, "Well... these days I can usually be found at Prairie Creek Reservoir on my pontoon boat."
They are immediately offended, but I also know that deep down they are envious, as well.
Now...if this person attends the so-called megachurch in town, I might follow up with the declaration that I have been hanging out at God's megachurch. And then, depending on how feisty I'm feeling in that moment, I'll continue with "It's just me and the ducks, the herons and fish, just breathing in the fresh air and watching the water sparkle with sunshine". "You know...you can really hear God out there...all day long, if you like. How's THAT for a sermon ?!" I smile.
They are usually a little flustered by now and will shift to another line of questioning. "Now you know scripture requires you to be in submission to a pastor" to which I reply, "I am under Jesus' authority...is that not sufficient?" (apparently it's not)
"But you MUST be in submission to a pastor and not forsake the assembling of yourselves together." "Well, you may have a point there. I have been searching for a long time for a pastor who knows more than I have come to know in my simple way...one that can bring me closer to God. So far I haven't found one. Most of the ones I have encountered are more concerned with their programs and budgets and membership drives."
"Oh...and then there is the other matter of finding one who's life is a worthy example. Your new pastor is what now...33 years old? Now why would I go sit under a child? From what I understand of his family life, his life isn't working out so well. If the pastor isn't making his own life work, then why would I sit under him and let him tell me how to make my life work?"
"But you must go somewhere to be fed!" they cry, intent on winning the argument or my soul...I'm not sure which.
"My dear," I reply, "I have been walking with God since I was 22. I am now 60 years old. If I don't know how to feed myself by now, I should be ashamed of myself, don't you think?"