a curiosity

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I was hanging out in a coastal town on Tuesday with a friend who I haven’t seen or talked with for a bit of time. She moved away from the area, with high hopes that her new place of residence would bring satisfaction and joy for all parts of her life. It was a leap, and it was a leap into what appeared to be open arms of diverse delights. Unfortunately, the expected pond she was leaping into turned out to be a mirage so she fell into a pool of dust and mud. There are a lot of aspects to this, but one of the saddest aspects is the fact she moved out that way, in part, to participate in a church.

The problems she encountered after pouring herself into this community for a long time, doing all the things she should do, giving and planning and waiting, turned around to slap her in her face as there were aspects that arose which were decidely not of a Christian nature, and indeed left her feeling very used, very empty, and quite down on herself.

That’s not unusual, and the details aren’t really worth describing since you’ll find them in just about any discussion of churches in our era. What is sad is her realization after this.

She started taking tennis lessons, you see. And she loves it. She goes to the club and there are people excited about seeing her, there are always people who want to play, and who call her to set up times to play. There are men and women of various skills, all who are there because they enjoy the game, enjoy the company of others who enjoy the game, and in their excitement about it all really draw people in.

She owns a horse. One curious day she happened to be talking to a person who is involved in a polo club. Polo even more than tennis is considered a froofy, ritzy sort of sport, the kind of place you’d expect to find upper crust, snooty people unwilling to lower themselves to associate with we riff raff. However, in talking and in following up she found much the same sort of culture as she found with her tennis experiences. They wanted to include her, and would give her lessons and let her use a horse which was more suited to the game of polo. They followed up, they got her excited, they made her feel a part even before she was ever committed.

However, at church she would send out invitations and get no replies. She would plan parties and no one would come. She would try to organize things and get only blank stares, and found some in charge in charge having at first little regard for her, and then an inappropriate regard. Church has been a desert. Tennis has been an oasis.

Tennis players are palpable people. Church people are shadows and mists, there in appearance but not in reality.

I have found much the same thing. Were I to be very intent and able to come off my mountain and meet people for social interactions I almost certainly would not try a church or anything Christian related. I would take a sailing class, join and involve myself in the Sierra Club, or do something which is enlivening to my soul that sadly isn’t that which is the most enlivening for souls. I’ve spent twelve years in primarily Christian environments and know full well there is a great deal of emptiness and frustration at every corner. Especially if you are following Paul’s advice, whether out of choice or circumstances, and have not gotten married.

That’s a curiosity to me. It’s a curiosity to me how what she said doesn’t surprise me, and it’s a curiosity to me how absolutely little trust I have that a Christian community would have any sort of social balm for those who need a faithful friend or deeper interaction. This isn’t said in depression or frustration or anger. Which is sort of sad. Momentary loss of expectation is part of living this life. A more removed analysis of what I see is something deeper, and more confusing in a way.

How and why would a tennis club offer more full interaction than a church? How and why are people who get excited about polo or sailing more welcoming and involving than those who get excited about the fullness of salvation?

I imagine I can come up with a list of things. But, as a now outsider who has a seminary degree, and has done most everything a person can do in and for a church, I see this as something more than a problem that is needing a list of answers.

In another part of the conversation I mentioned I really need to get connected with an artists or writers colony. There’s that part of me, this big part, needing to find people who yearn for deeper discoveries and understand the sacrifices needed to pursue such things, and are welcoming and supportive of those who make such sacrifices. I don’t, however, attend church very much, because while God is talked about there, I find myself being all too judged not on my quests for the higher realms, but rather on how I’m doing a rather miserable job pursuing the more acceptable values of social and monetary advancement. I am an outsider in church because I disdain a corporate life for myself, and want to be a pilgrim seeking the fullness of God. Such the same qualities, sad to say, would make me quite connected with a particular portion of society, many of whom would disdain the particulars of my quite ingrained faith.

This puts me, and others like me, into a bit of a bind. Neither here nor there, and that is the worst sort of place one can be. I realize this is a situation that needs prayer. But who wants to pray when such a community is so tremendously isolating.

I think I would much rather go sailing. Or play a game of tennis with people who might actually regard me as a worthwhile partner, even if I can’t quite always get that ball over the net yet.

Whither the Holy Spirit?

One Response to “a curiosity”

  1. Present Matters Says:

    […] This post and this post are actually connected, and part of a continuing series. […]