Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blind Dating The Church

Here is what I know about myself, I like my churches like I like my men--intellectual, small and quirky. I moved recently which puts me in the church-hunting scene and I don’t know that I ever realized before how very similar the process can be to blind dating. I give each church a try based on the information that I have from a friend, a group that I belong to or, let’s face it, maybe just based on outward appearances. I think I have a good gut for what I want, but I still always try a few that aren’t my type thinking that perhaps my tastes have changed or that I should just find a few places to pass the time for a while. After all, my perfect church home is only really going to plop itself down in front of me when I stop looking, right?

That is, by the way, what married Christians are always telling single people about “church” searches.

You’re only going to find a church when you stop expecting to find one. Good churches always pop up when you least expect it.”

“God will bring you a “church” when you stop wanting one so badly. That’s what happened with me and First Baptist, here.” (Cue, oozing condescension)

AND, finally, “Did you ever think maybe this is a gift from God that you haven’t found a “church”? Now you are free just to concentrate on HIM and not get confused with the love and support and fun that you would be having if you did have one.”

Wait, that all sounds stupid in this context doesn’t it? Same goes when we’re talking relationships. If you are a married person who uses one or more of these canned lines, on your poor vulnerable, single friends, get in the bathroom, rinse that filthy mouth out with a bar of soap and immediately send those phrases to your conversational graveyard!

Now as I was saying, on my church-finding journey I always want to visit a couple of places that are refined and traditional, but after one or two “dates” I am like “Am I ever going to be able to dance around you” and “Why are all of your friends geriatric?”

Then, occasionally I visit a small, home-grown-country church because my grandmother wants me to. Always a horrible idea. She has an agenda.

Most recently, I blind-church- dated the popular one. This is the church that everyone in town talks about excitedly, assuming it is just what you want. This church is big and strong, has money and always has a lot going on every week. That’s all good, of course except that big and strong makes me feel little and fearful, rich makes me feel awkward like when I go to the Save Haiti Dinner and I have to ask which one is the salad fork. And, when, in the past I have church-dated the congregation that has the most stuff going on every week, I have found that it doesn’t seem to have a lot of time for me. I once went to talk to the pastor at a popular church that I attended at the time. I was crying, confused and in need of a little TLC. So I asked the pastor when I could come in and talk with him about some important issues I was facing and he told me he was booked for the next 3 months. “Look, you can either talk to me right here, right now, find an elder to get with later this week or get on my schedule for 3 months out. But it seems like you’ve got a lot going on here, so I would set up an appt with an elder if I were you, so that you can get the most out of your time." I do not enjoy being pawned off. We "broke up", a few weeks later.

So, in the spirit of success in both church and romance searching, I have created a list of tips for finding your dream church/partner.

1. Seek Divine Counsel. God has good things in store for our futures, period. There is no need to fret when parents are sending pamphlets for every church in town or rambling on about grandchildren. Use the pamphlets for a decoupage project and remind them that you only get to be a grandparent after you really truly stop wanting it. God loves us and is the author and finisher of our faith. If you want to know what happens next, check with the writer.

2. Know Thyself. If you want to puke when someone argues that God is a registered Republican, maybe stay away from First Republican Church in smalltown, USA and the singles group that meets there. You will never agree with everything a person or church says or does, of course but when you sense a profound disconnect (vaguely racist or sexist comments, odd money spending habits, over-emphasis on outer appearances) ask a few clarifying questions and if you aren’t pleased with the answers move on. Life is too short.

3. Be open. Although a gal (or guy) has to know what she or (he) wants, I think all of us can probably think of a time when we scoffed at someone or something and that object of our ridicule ultimately turned out to be the very best thing for us. You will never get to participate in God’s raucous cinematic adventures for your life if you insist on replaying the same stale VHS tape for the next 25 years. Maybe you hated blond hair when you were 12 but you’re 32 now dude, take a risk. Or perhaps you have historically experienced acute sleepyheadedness singing hymns in a liturgical service. But it could it be that these old hymns might have new life for the one who has ears to hear? Seek God. Know Thyself. Be open. Wacky though the journey may be, God has big plans.


Kay Hart said...

Love the post! In my current situation, I find myself living in the tension of #2 and #3.

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