Micah J Murray has a good eye: a good eye in photography/film, and a good eye for identifying cultural trends and spiritual truths. His words call out to the weary and cynical, and he has a knack for identifying the soul’s desire, and putting his finger on those tender spots of faith. His is an important, prophetic voice (and I don’t use that word lightly) in a fresh generation of US Christians. Over to Micah:
It crept in slowly, quietly.
Filled its coffee mug in the church lobby and slipped politely into the pew next to us, between the song and the sermon.
Uninvited, unwanted, unexpected.
For a while, it was just there on Sunday mornings. In polite handshakes, perfect music, tidy sermons. We passed in and out of the big front doors too quickly and unnoticed, and the Loneliness went with us.
I don’t know if they changed, or we did. Or if we just got tired of trying. We started skipping services on Sunday mornings, sleeping in. (I don’t think anyone noticed.)
A few months later, I guess we shrugged and realized that we were no longer part of that church.
We tried to find another place to call home. Slipped in and out of the back row of a few more churches. Shook hands and smiled and filled out the visitors’ information cards and took home the bulletins.
But the Loneliness followed us there in the mornings, and drove us home.
I wished that we could belong. I really did. But the Loneliness wrapped its arms around us, and I knew as I slipped in and out of those back pews that they would never be home.
Then it was just a lot of coffee, and a lot of lazy Sunday mornings. Lying on the couch scrolling through Twitter, growing resentful of all the people happily talking about the churches they loved.
It should have been relaxing, to not have to put on pants or drive anywhere, but Sunday morning became the loneliest hour of our week.
As spring turned to summer, I sat out on my porch and watched the sun dance across the grass, and Loneliness sat beside me.
It’s strange how something so simple can feel so heavy.
Loneliness wasn’t content to sit next to us in church. It rode home in the car, took a seat at the table, seeped into the walls of our house.
It sat on my chest squeezing the breath from my lungs.
I used to think that God was all I needed.
I heard pastors and church people tell me that loneliness was a sign that I don’t quite love God enough, that I need to try harder to be satisfied by Him alone.
That the cure for loneliness is to draw closer to Jesus.
I think they were wrong.
I heard a sermon about community one of those Sunday mornings, alone on my back porch. The preacher said a lot of things that I’d always suspected, but hadn’t often heard from the church.
About how Jesus alone isn’t enough, we need the Church too. About how God has chosen to reveal Himself to us through the community of believers. About how “the Christ in your brother is often easier to see than the Christ in yourself.”
And the Loneliness sat beside me and listened.
Community isn’t a service that you can slip into unnoticed with a cup of coffee, and vanish from just as quickly after the offering is taken. Community isn’t a scheduled event once a week, listed in the back of a bulletin.
Community is space to breathe, to ask questions, to share stories, to swear profusely, to sit in silence, to whisper of God.
These days community has felt far away, and so God has felt far away too.
There is no simple cure, no waiting for the Loneliness to magically vanish; no waiting for God to appear in its place.
There is only the hard work of looking for community, and in community looking for God.
Micah J Murray: Once upon a time Micah knew everything there was to know about God. One day he found himself admitting that, despite having all the answers, he barely believed in God anymore. With the few shreds of faith he had left, he clung to the hope that God was searching for him, and that he would someday be found. Being found is more of a journey than a destination, and this is where you’ll find Micah today. Slowly picking through all the broken pieces of failed religion, looking for Jesus in the midst of it, being found by Him more and more each day. When he’s not chasing his two small boys around the house, riding motorcycles with his wife, or overdosing on coffee, Micah attempts to scrawl out the words of this unfolding story on the pages of the internet. Find him on Twitter, or his blog, Redemption Pictures.
Over to you:
Hi, this is so true, a great read thanks, its all to easy to be unoticed in church and Why is it sometime in churches your like i’m fine but your far from it, you just dont feel you can share the real you.
keep writing be blessed in all you do.
Thank you for this, Tanya and Micah. I, too, have found community in churches at times, and have been lonely in them at others. I am also just starting to look again after 8-10 years without a church. During that time, however, God has provided community “crawling out of the woodwork” quite unexpectedly–at work, in old friends, neighbors, facebook, online (!) Tanya has been a lifeline that I needed during some of my loneliest times. We all know that the Church is not a building; maybe it’s not a formal community either. I don’t know. As I mentioned, I hope to start looking again soon. But the search itself can be lonely. This time I will try not to get my hopes up. If I don’t find what I’m looking for, I think I will probably just end up relying on the support network I have now. I am amazed at the growth still possible in the relationships I have…
I do love how God provides that unexpected community “from the woodworks” during those difficult times. You’re right though… the search can be the loneliest part of all. Here’s to finding places to belong…
I’m SO glad to have been something of a lifeline. That’s so good to know. I love it when kindred spirits pop up in unexpected places. Hoping you find a few more…
Two for two, Micah. Just read through All.The.Comments on your wonderful satirical piece on feminism and now this melancholy glory. Thank you for it all. And blessings on your search, too. I’ve been a pastor, I’ve organized small groups up the yin-yang, even been in a few. And still, sometimes, it feels lonely. Some groups ‘gel,’ some don’t and I haven’t a clue as to why or why not. I trust that the Holy Spirit is in there somewhere, and I keep looking.
Wow, Diana. If you read all the comments on that feminism post, you have a much longer attention span than I do. I’ve glanced at them a few times, but haven’t made my way through all of them.
LIke you, I have no idea why some groups have that “fit” and others don’t. I’m grateful that we’ve finally found a church that DOES have that fit for us… we just have to move across the country next month to be there. 🙂
Oh damn I’ve tried to respond to this so many ways, am just so emotional right now I thought it was just me , keep searching people I love and appreciate u all.
You’re not alone, Kevin. I hope you find that community soon. Much love to you.
I just wanted to say that I was really moved by this. Praying for you.
sometimes being a leader of church is incredibly lonely, especially when friends in church cannot be completely confided in for the sake of others and it’s harder to stay home and avoid it all! Thanks for this 🙂
Oh yes! Leadership can be the loneliest of all. Thank you for all that you do, Naomi.
I can really relate to this. Sometimes I feel invisible in my church. When I was ill for several months, only my house group family kept in touch.
Some Sundays are fine others I feel invisible.
Mostly I do chat with people but I am very rarely truly myself, I don’t feel “at home” and would do some church shopping but my daughter is happy there at the moment.
Something that keeps me going is the knowledge that God knows my heart and knows me, even if my church doesn’t!
Tricia… that can be the hardest of all sometimes. Showing up but not being seen. I truly hope that God continues to surround you with community that will pour His love into you.
i can totally relate. why is it that we are all searching for this thing and it seems to elude us? i want to create this kind of community somehow. every church i visited in the past that seemed to be refreshing ended up just being more of the same. i often wonder if it’s my problem or a deeper community issue.
I don’t know why it’s so hard to find that community, but it is certainly something that so many of us are very thirsty for, isn’t it?
Relate to this so much, Micah. I’m still looking. I believe it is possible to experience vibrant community in church, I just haven’t found it yet.
It’s frustrating to keep searching, isn’t it Leigh? I’ve been part of a few churches where I experienced that sort of community. And I believe that I’ll find it again.
Leigh … me too … still looking , still hoping and somewhere deep within, KNOWING that this is possible …may be it isn’t in the 4 walls … maybe it is out here every day … maybe it is in walking in Love … In the awareness that Christ in me the hope of glory is also Christ in you the hope of glory … all day. every day.