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: