My confession: I don’t go to church when Ron is out of town.
Not on Sunday. Not on Wednesday. Not ever. It is too hard. It has been for two years.
Each Sunday morning, when I am home alone, I shower, do my hair, and get dressed. I put on makeup and put the dogs in their kennel. I gather my things and leave the house with every intention of going to church. Really, I intend to go to church alone. But I don’t. I can’t. I can’t walk into church alone. I can’t stand there alone, surrounded by the crowd during worship. I can’t do the “greet people” thing alone. I can’t sit and listen to the sermon alone. I can’t walk into my Sunday school classroom alone.
I drive alone towards church in time for service, but I never make it to the parking lot. I drive around until I think of some place else to go. Wal-Mart, Target, Market Street. I buy a few things. I leave. I get lunch to go. I come home to eat. Alone.
Nope, I can’t walk into church alone. It is just too hard.
Maybe part of this stems from old stuff like the embarrassment of being a nerdy outcast going into the high school cafeteria alone. Maybe it has to do with abandonment issues from my childhood. Maybe it’s social anxiety. Maybe it’s my low self-esteem. Maybe it’s related to grief. Maybe being alone in church reminds me too much of those I have lost or fears of losing someone else. I don’t know. But I just can’t do it. Not now. Not this week.
When Ron is home, we go to the 8:15 service followed by Sunday school and lunch every Sunday. I love our church and Sunday school classmates. We have a wonderful church home. When visiting one of my children, I go to their church with them. I love going to church with my family.
We always go to church on Sundays when Ron and I are together, even when out of town. We enjoy finding a church in new cities. We’ve visited Baptist churches, Vineyard Fellowships, Presbyterian Churches, an Evangelical Free church, a Lutheran Church, a predominately black charismatic church, and a nondenominational Bible church. We have found that the Word is preached in various denominations throughout this great nation and that God’s people are welcoming and kind at each of them.
The issue is not that I don’t want to go to church. It is that I can’t. Not alone.
I knew Ron would be leaving for Asia early Sunday morning. I wanted to go to church without him this time. This week I would do it! I would be strong! I would overcome!
No. Not really. I admitted inwardly that I would not go alone this week. Or the next time.
Rather than not going, I thought about calling someone to ride with to our church. But I didn’t know who to call, so I called no one. I considered calling my friend Jodie, whose husband travels a bunch, to ride to her church with her. But I didn’t call her. Sunday morning I almost called my friend Liz to see if I could go to their church with her and husband. I didn’t call her either.
“Will you take me to church with you so I don’t have to walk into that scary place all alone?” It sounds so pathetic. So weak. So broken. So stupid.
I could hear their response, “Seriously? You need someone to hold your hand? What? You can’t walk into church alone? Don’t you trust God? What are you afraid of? How silly? Get over yourself! Don’t you want to worship? Are you even a believer? Do you have any faith? Don’t forsake the gathering together of the brethren!“
Of course, my friends would never say those things. They would love me. They would gladly pick me up and sit with me. They might even take me to lunch.
So why didn’t I call one of them? I don’t know. But I didn’t. I never do.
Next Sunday Ron will be home. The week after that we will both be out of town. But in three weeks I’ll be here without him.
Local friends, consider this a cry for help. Someone please invite me to ride with them to church on November 22! Please help me break this stupid stronghold!
Everyone else, please consider calling that single mom, that widow, that friend whose husband travels. Invite them to ride with you to church. You may help them, and you may find it blesses you, too.