For nearly 20 years of my life, the above video pretty much summed it up for me and church. I grew up in a Christian family and attended this Episcopal church in Chinatown, San Francisco. It was a community that basically had the same thing every Sunday.
It was stand, sit, kneel, hymn, lather, rinse, repeat. Every Sunday it was the same routine. It was boring. It was not inspiring.
Sunday school wasn’t much better either. It became a contest of who had more Bible knowledge than the next kid. I usually “knew” more and got my gold star next to my name. I could tell you everything about the Last Supper, the crucifixion and the resurrection. Asked me why Jesus did all that, I had no answer.
This isn’t a knock on my home church, but at the same time, I knew that I was dying. I knew everything about Jesus from what I read in the book, yet when asked about who Jesus is, I knew nothing.
It got to the point where it became routine for me every Sunday. It was not fun. Maybe it was the fact I was around Chinese immigrants all the time. Maybe it was the generation gap. Or maybe this church just wasn’t for me.
So it wasn’t until I left my home church did I finally see Jesus in my life. And guess where I saw him? It wasn’t inside four walls that we call a church. It was in the hearts of good Christians I met. I saw Jesus in action with the love and care they showed me and others.
But still, after I had left my home church and went off to college, I was a nomad. I didn’t have a place that I could call my home church. Due in part to work, school and other things, I didn’t have a consistent Sunday place to go to. But another part of it also was because there was no place around that had what I felt like was a good church for me.
I started to surround myself with other Christians that I met through fellowship. But it still was a hard journey for me because despite them being more free in how they want to go about life, it still was a little bit of the same.
What drove me away from my home church was the fact that there was a part of life that they wanted to ignore. There are problems we encounter that need to be addressed. We need to realize we’re imperfect.
The Christian people and fellowships I was a part of understood that. But they didn’t embrace it.
I got so sick and tired of going to churches that kept telling me “Jesus loves you”. I don’t want to hear that. I don’t need to hear that. I needed a place where I was told “You’re fucking things up in life and you need Jesus because Jesus loves you”.
(** By the way, some of my Christian friends would probably get into a mass prayer for me because I used a curse word, not because I was struggling in life.)
I wanted to be challenged. I wanted to be convicted. I wanted to be broken down so bad that I had to rely on Jesus. I needed to be told I am worthless so I can realize how much I needed Jesus.
And it was not until after I graduated that I found a couple places in San Jose that fit that mold. My old church would shun me if I ever danced during worship, let alone leave my pew. But I found a couple places that welcomed it. Run around during worship. Drop down on your knees during prayer. Go dumb in church.
I never knew we could do that in church. At least for the 20 years I spent at my home church, even wearing shorts was not allowed. This was totally different.
Fast forward to now and I still am a nomad. I don’t know if I have any place I can call a home church. And now that I am by myself due to work, it’s a harder journey.
I still have a certain idea of what I want in a church. I want a church that doesn’t have that generation gap. I want a church that understands the need for someone my age. I want a church that isn’t afraid to touch on the topics that are controversial. I want a place that won’t look away from my sins. I need a place that calls out my sins so I can realize that even though I know Jesus loves me, I need Him more than ever.
I think my point is that I don’t want to judge churches. Every place is different and feeds people differently. But for me, after 25 years of searching and struggling, I still don’t have a place that I can call a church. Instead, it’s been a long search of finding a place that can help feed my yearning soul.
Maybe I’ll find one soon. Maybe I will be able to join a group that understands my struggles. Maybe I will find a place that sees me as a sinner that is on a journey with Jesus.
My friend Peggy told me recently that being a nomad looking for a church isn’t a bad thing. Jesus was a nomad too. He didn’t go to one building every week. He was all over the place searching, learning and feeding God’s people. Maybe that’s where my journey is supposed to lead me too.
I welcomed Jesus into my heart because I met Him outside of the four walls of a church. My growth in Him has not been a typical journey and I don’t think it ever will be.
I’ll still keep my search for a community to fit into. This journey is not meant for me to do alone. But I also know that my journey isn’t supposed to be one straight path. It’s a winding road and I need it to be that way.