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January 23, 2009

“This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD : ‘Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.”

-Jeremiah 18:1-4

Visiting churches has been great – especially lovely was the panic attack that I had on Wednesday night while picking up Jon-David from his Bible class.

Some of the high points from the evening:

  • First, I didn’t realize some churches still had church on Wednesdays.
  • Second, I actually did have a panic attack in the middle of the hall – complete with tightness in my chest, shallow breathing, and the inability to stop crying.
  • Third, I decided maybe I don’t really need to be in church anyway. Maybe the whole thing in the Bible about “not forsaking assembling together” is talking about the times when I go for coffee with other Christians. Right?

I asked God about it this morning.  I sat in the middle of my closet, surrounded by Hugh’s dirty work shirts, and prayed for His wisdom to come and fill me.

“Lord, I don’t want to be tense about church anymore.  I don’t want to be afraid.  I want to have hope that you have a church for our family…But I am so freaked out that I am struggling to even walk into a church building.”

I am so tempted to isolate myself right now.  When I am in church, I want to hide.  I don’t look around, I don’t make eye contact with people, and I don’t feel like I really belong there – or anywhere.

I feel like a second-class Christian right now – a flaky Jesus-follower who has flitted around the body of Christ, never landing.  I long for the stability of a local church more than I can describe.  I want it so badly that I am terrified when I go into a church.

Leaving our old church and looking for a new church has been more difficult than I thought possible.  Ever.  I have grieved the one church where I felt like I really belonged, but I also know that God called our family to leave.

If He called us to leave, why has it been so hard?  Why are things getting worse, not better?  My faith is weakening, and I am less sure than ever that there is a place for us – a place for me.

I want to believe that God has something to teach me through this season.  Trying to find a church is messy and painful. But I know that the mess and the pain are part of the process when I wearily climb up on the Potter’s wheel and wait for Him to mold and shape me. Each time He has called me to do something hard – and I have chosen trust over fear – my relationship with Him has deepened and grown.

If I know that is my goal – to become closer to Jesus in the middle of this – then I will get out of the car this Sunday, walk into another unfamiliar building, and hold my head up high.

I’m marred, but I’m being formed by my Father.

I’ll be o-kay.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 23, 2009 9:25 pm

    Jess, you are not alone in this.

    True confession: I’m a pastor’s wife. Over the summer after we “broke up” with the church where my husband had served for over 3 years, I was devastated. After wondering from church to church for weeks, I wanted to climb in the bed and pull the covers over my head and forget it.

    But don’t give up. Because God placed us right where he wanted us… in His time, no less. Now for the first time in my life, I’m understanding why going to church is a valuable thing for my walk with the Lord.

    I don’t know where you live, but when I read this, I just wanted to come get you and take you to worship with me. Because even when our styles of worship differ, we can find the true purpose of “assembling together” by being with others whose hearts beat in tune with ours. And girl, it sounds like your anxiety-ridden heart rate is dancing right along with mine at times!

    I’m praying that God shows you just where He wants you as you remain willing to be pulled and shaped on His Sovreign “wheel”.

  2. January 24, 2009 8:46 am

    Reading your post this morning, this song popped into my head:

    Refiner’s fire,
    my heart’s one desire
    is to be holy;
    set apart for You, Lord.
    I choose to be holy;
    set apart for You, my Master,
    ready to do Your will.

    You’re being shaped and refined. I can’t think of any way that could feel good. Potters’ wheels spin and stretch, refining burns away impurities. Still, it’s the only way to become a shining masterpiece that glorifies the Artist. He loves you so much, Jess. He will never let you walk through such difficult times unless it is for your good and His glory, and you never walk alone.

  3. January 24, 2009 12:42 pm

    Jess, I hurt just reading your post. And while my reasons for wanting to stay in bed and give up aren’t the same, our journeys are both difficult. I also question why God has this path for us and cling to the fact that it is for His glory. I pray for your journey but mostly I”m praying for your peace.

  4. January 24, 2009 6:09 pm

    You know, I haven’t found a church I feel at home in for a long time. I’m very cautious, because I can’t abide the thought of “religion” taking precedence over a true relationship with Jesus. Not to mention I’ve moved 3 times this year across the eastern sea board.

    So I haven’t been going to church, and rather have had my fellowship with Christian friends. I think in some ways, I find myself lacking in my spiritual life if only because I don’t have “church” to remind me, but I can’t seem to find one that truly fits my longing for Him.

    I want to find one, one day. Until I do I am happy to get by without one.

  5. January 24, 2009 7:22 pm

    jess, i know that feeling. i have had it and now have it again. i’m longing for a home in my church and yet, i never find it. tomorrow, i’m walking into the church we have attended for 1.5 years and telling the pastor and his wife that we’re leaving because we are the only ones in the church young enough to have kids under the age of 10, besides the pastor and his wife, but they have no kids. my older son is so lonely there. my heart breaks though. i get so angry sometimes, walking in there, sometimes i get so sad and other times, i just get nervous, but most of the time, i’m just lonely. i’m sorry you are going through this.

  6. January 25, 2009 10:29 am

    For many years, we felt like we bounced around like you described. Not too long ago, an old friend (who knew me during the bouncing season) asked me where we were in church and how long we had been there. When I told her two and a half years, she quipped, “Oh, that’s some sort of record for you all, isn’t it?” I would be lying if I said that that didn’t really sting, even now. Even when I know we aren’t church hoppers (pardon the pun) it still took me back to that place you are describing.

    You will get there my friend– just keep seeking Him, and take every thought captive in the meantime. Especially the ones that cripple you in hallways.

  7. January 25, 2009 9:05 pm

    It was so great to see you guys this morning and I’m honored that you came visiting 🙂 I just had a feeling all morning that I’d see you there today and so I was keeping an eye out. I hope you enjoyed it and will come back, but mostly I’m praying that you’ll find the perfect church home soon. It’s such an amazing thing when you find that community, but such a hard thing to actually find it!

  8. January 28, 2009 1:27 am

    Hi Jess,

    I’ve come to your blog a few times and I enjoy your honesty and the way you are willing to put your feelings out there. I think most of us feel the same way a lot of times, but don’t want to admit it or aren’t willing to let others see how we truly feel. I have been in this same place, (that you mention in this post), several times in my life. In fact, I’m there once again and I can say that it is not easy on any level. I also struggle with anxiety and have also had actual anxiety attacks when going to church. I was hurt deeply some years back and didn’t go to church for about a year. Then, I found a church I felt was loving, caring, and all the things a church should be. Things went well for quite a while and then – bam, it all happened again. I like the church I go to now, but it is still hard for me to go on Sunday. I keep thinking, “Why do I want to be in this place? This place has always caused me hurt in the end…” But then I remind myself that God won’t ever leave me or foresake me. He wasn’t the one who hurt me, it was people. It’s so easy to mix up God with religion, but the two are completely different. I want to encourage you to draw near to God, He will be your strength and hope. You will be stronger than ever before because you won’t be relying on people. He will lead you to the perfect church for you, even if it’s just in your home fellowshipping with fellow believers.

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