June 11, 2009

Leaving the Yard

If anywhere from 40-50% of the population is single, why isn't that percentage represented in churches? Why is it that single people so often avoid church, or work very hard at being invisible when we're in church? Could it be the culture of the church?

If Noah's ark consisted of 2x2s and the church seems to consist of 2x2s, what happens to the 1x1s who try to navigate the church? Do they get thrown overboard? Are they kept in steerage?

In some churches, the answer would be, um, yes. As in the ones who aren't thrown overboard get thrown into steerage. On the other hand, sometimes we choose to jump overboard. We may even sign up for steerage.

My drivers ed teacher was full of funny sayings. He'd ask things like "How do you know if you're driving in a straight line? People, you don't look at the Buick logo in the middle of the steering wheel to see if it's straight!" (How many 16-year-olds today would even recognize a Buick logo?)

Mr. Ramsey often asked us questions about various streets in Tulsa. He soon learned that if the streets were outside the boundaries of our school district, we would look at him with blank faces. One day in total exasperation he yelled, "People, the next time your parents leave the front gate open, I want you to wander out of the yard!" (I always wondered how we were supposed to know about these streets when we weren't driving yet, and could only go where we were taken, but that's beside the point.)

He had the answer to a lot of life's questions in that one sentence. We have to wander out of the yard! We have our licenses now, we've got the keys to the car. There's no excuse for staying in our yards anymore.

I was baptized when I was 7, but by the time I was 14, I was pretty disillusioned with organized religion. I didn't want to do the church thing anymore. So I took what I now refer to as "my 18-year sabbatical" from church. About 11 years into it, I began to feel the need for something more, and I occasionally visited churches of different denominations - and churches of no denomination - but was still reluctant to change my attitude about church. I was particularly reluctant to change my attitude about the church I had grown up in. I thought "any church but that church."

So through my 20s and into my early 30s, I was one of those people who thought of Sunday as the loneliest day of the week. There was no getting around it - it wasn't just the loneliest day, it was the longest day, too. There were things I enjoyed about Sundays. I loved taking the paper out and reading it by the pool. Sunday mornings were quiet - not like Saturday mornings when neighbors were out and children and grandchildren were around. Sundays were peaceful and relaxing. I told myself that was my form of worship. But by Sunday afternoon, the families were back as if to remind me that I was alone.

But then one August, I found myself standing in the balcony of the church I'd sworn I would not go back to. And I knew I'd come home. It wasn't easy. My goal was to sneak in and out each Sunday and not be seen. I'd hide in the top of the balcony where I avoided talking to anyone. Is it any wonder it wasn't all that satisfying, and I still felt lonely, even surrounded by 1,000 people in worship?

But it was the first step. I had wandered out of the yard.

1 comment:

  1. Im still trying to figure out where singles fit in the church. I think there more than any other place we are misunderstood and disregarded.