I’m not shopping for a church. For me, church should not be a matter of shopping, I’m not buying anything here. I’m searching for a community, a tribe, a safe place, but I’m not shopping because I walk into these places with lots of baggage and no coin. As far as consumer purposes go, I come into church a beggar. I come in empty-handed. So I’m not “church shopping.”
Lately, though, my journey has edged along the lines of “window shopping” I admit. I’ve looked at every community in a 20 minute radius of my Chicago home. I’ve gotten feedback, suggestions and insights into most of them. I’ve trolled their websites and driven by a few. It’s hard to discern a whole lot just from peeking in the windows.
The weird thing about the Orthodox communities is that while the people I’ve met are welcoming and loving they are not pushy. They don’t go out of their way to hook me up, at least that’s my impression. There is no greeter at the door, no “sign up for small groups” clipboard, no book table to further my connection, no overzealous preacher making sure I feel the worship is “relevant” and no latte stand at which I can caffeine up before the sermon. In Orthodoxy, I have to want to be there. I have to show up. Most days I don’t want to show up. I’m tired and I just want to sleep in.
I did visit one Orthodox community last Sunday for Liturgy. I sat in the back, as I am wont to do, hoping for an early exit because my family was at home waiting to celebrate my birthday. Unfortunately I got hemmed into the corner with no escape route when my row was filled by a group of college students. I had intended to go unnoticed and just focus on the Liturgy but my plans were thwarted by an old familiar foe…the ol’ “Are there any visitors here today?” gig. I really thought I’d be immune to that by attending an Orthodox church, but apparently not. I didn’t raise my hand but the row of visiting college students drew attention to me and then I was called out.
There’s nothing I hate more than that…being noticed when I’m trying my best to go undetected. The moment I’m detected I become accountable, recognized, responsible. There was no way I could sneak out now so I stayed until the end.
As I drove home I realized that becoming Orthodox is kind of a pain in the ass. In fact, being a follower of Christ is a pain in the ass. It’s a life fraught with difficulty and sacrifice and challenge. Being called to be the best versions of our selves is completely counter cultural and more than likely utter lunacy. Every time I turn around I’m faced with the now and the not yet. I’m wanting dessert at breakfast. The trouble is that I’m an adult, I can choose dessert at breakfast or instead of breakfast. It’s up to me, there is no one, not my priest or my husband or even my best friend who can talk me out of it. I’m responsible for me.
Which sucks sometimes. I’d so often really like someone to do it for me, someone to put the hammer down on my overindulgence and self-importance and rebellious nature because I’m weak and grief-stricken and angry. And I’m back then to Orthodoxy, my big, unchanging rubber room where I can meet God, regardless of how much baggage and how little coin I carry. But I have to show up. I have to want to be there…and this might always be my struggle.