Tuesday, July 01, 2008

drowning with land in sight...

I have determined I am suffering from a (hopefully) temporary anxiety disorder. I have also discovered this disorder has a name: ecclesiophobia.

It’s kind of like hydrophobia. Say someone was out swimming in the ocean and encountered a shark. They didn’t even have to, necessarily, touch the shark or get bitten by the shark… maybe the shark didn’t even see them… but the fear associated with that encounter haunts them. Now they find themselves unable to go near large bodies of water, even if previously they loved nothing more than to swim, fish, canoe, etc. They can no longer participate in these activities, much less enjoy them, because they have no idea what’s “in there”.

I’ve alternately described my current emotional state as being shell-shocked (also known as battle fatigue or combat stress reaction). I think not knowing how to deal properly with the shock and stress, with the displacement, with the confusion, has produced the phobia.

So my fear is of churches.

I can’t seem to get myself to one.

I told myself, when I made the decision to leave my former congregation, I would not put any pressure on myself to join a new one, but would wait for the Lord’s leading. At the same time, I assumed I would visit around and experience the richness of ecclesial diversity in our city as I listened for divine direction. I’ve received all kinds of suggestions from people who have been in my shoes, from joining a new church right away, returning to my “home church”, accepting friends’ invitations to their churches, getting lost for awhile in the midst of a mega church… but I can’t even get up the nerve to leave the house.

How do I trust what’s “in there”?

A friend introduced me to a site on “detoxing from church,” and I have found some related articles as well. Even when making the decision to leave, I had found sites such as battered sheep and a series at wittenberg gate to be helpful. I recognize that I am under no obligation to “plug-in” to a new congregation or community immediately (though, this article kind-of kicked my butt… thanks Mark!). I know I am surrounded by believers who will hold me accountable and encourage me and read scripture and pray and break bread with me. However, I still want to be able to sit amidst my brothers and sisters in a gathering. Quite honestly, I find the whole situation silly (if I didn’t know how serious it actually is).

So, I’m going to take the plunge this Sunday. It’s not about joining a congregation or putting down roots. It’s just about going, being there, testing the waters, reminding myself that I use to enjoy it.

Second Baptist Church is in downtown Little Rock, and there are several factors why I’ve chosen it as my wading pool:

  • I come from the Baptist tradition, so I am already familiar with the church culture

  • 2BC is aligned with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which is associated more with an Anabaptist heritage than the Calvinist resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention (really means nothing to anyone who hasn't struggled through life in the SBC, but an issue I can't help but be aware of)

  • Their Minister of Mission and Outreach includes Wendell Berry on his list of favorite authors (*bonus points*)

  • This Sunday morning they are hosting Donald Miller and the Ridewell Tour. There's no secret I'm a huge fan of Miller's writing, and I had the opportunity to hear him speak last year at the LeadNow conference (as well as participate in a small-group lunch session). Listening to him is like going to my "happy place."
Perhaps, just to be cautious, I’ll wear my floaties…

When it all comes down
And it all falls apart
And there's no way to win
And you're left with a broken heart
And you can't look down
'Cuz it's too far to fall
And you can't look forward to nothing
'Cept looking' back upon it all
Look up, and cry out
Don't be afraid to rage
Don't be afraid to shout
Look up for crying out loud

~ The 77’s


Agent B said...

So there's a name for this condition?

I've had it all along...

John Barber said...

Man, a chick that quotes the 77s. So righteous!

Seriously, good luck on Sunday. Donald would probably tell you to get your fanny to church, so that works out well...

We love you!

Ines said...

hahaha- i have the same fear of dogs, so i get anxiety attack when someone suggests we go walk around the neighborhood, and i scan the place in my head wondering which houses have dogs; or when people who own dogs and they live IN the house, invite us over for dinner, I think and think about it many times before I say yes to their invitation, cuz I'm skeered of what's "in there".

Take your time my friend, take your time and do some silent church (like silent contemplative prayer?) :-)

jeanetta said...

hang in there girlie. God's got a place for you and he will show you when the time is right

Jerusalem said...

um yeah. had that. wrote the brochure, bought the t-shirt. etc. etc. I can only sympathize deeply and swear that there is light on the other end. Maybe 2 years on the other end, but still it is out there. Enjoy your dip into the pool this Sunday my friend. Remember to breathe.

drc said...

I think its time to come out of my blog-stalking closet, I've been doing a lot of that lately (I read something you wrote awhile back for Jesus Manifesto and saw you were from LR, hence the stalkage.)

I have somewhat similar issues with churches. I spent a year loving where I was, then something changed and it wasn't working. I've been attending Epoch Church and I feel like my interests/passions/heart/whatever is more in line with their than any other place I've been, but I'm still not sure about everything.

I ride my bike past 2nd Baptist a lot, and have considered visiting a few times. I found out they were hosting the Ride:Well folks (another target of my stalking) a couple days ago and have been planning on going this Sunday. I messaged one of the pastors throught the Ride:Well network and he told me about a gathering/fellowship for the team Sunday evening, so you may also be interested in that. And maybe I'll see you there, I'll be the awkward one who looks lost.

Ramón said...

I hear tell the most common command in the Scriptures occurs 365 times in various configurations: Do not be afraid.

Journey on, sister.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the comment on my site. I was a bit excited, as I've been a fan of the Jesus Manifesto site for quite some time now. I guess you're connected with it? anyway, thanks for stopping by

Tad DeLay said...

...and by the way, I just noticed you are in Little Rock? Me too

Amber said...

When Seth "left the ministry," he went straight to law school, as far from the church scene as we could. I don't have to tell you how sick we were - all over sick, and because we didn't deal with it, we spent maybe six years in a some hard sins that grew from a root of bitterness that we didn't even know we had. I'm not saying you're bitter, but I'm acknowledging that there are so many levels of hurt in this circumstance that it's hard to see straight at all. I think that we had become so hurt by others' short view and lack of grace that we turned around and became that ourselves toward those who hurt us. It's weird how all that works. (HEbrews 12:15)

I wanted to encourage you that we are in such a good family now. We love our gangly body, and we are experiencing Jesus for the first time in this way. I hope you'll tell us how it went today. At church here this morning, I realized how odd and wonderful it is that we'll sit in rows and sing to an invisible being with tears streaming down our faces. I love you, Stranger Sister. It's okay if it takes you some time as long as you're not ignoring it.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the same place as you. I left church 3 years ago, I have gone to a couple churches with friends who 'swear' that 'their church is diffrent'...though so far they have been all the same, except for some very minor things.

I feel like the saying people give when I'm dating 'you have to kiss alot of frogs before you get a prince'...I'm tired of frogs 'church wise' but I hope this is your prince!

Tom said...

Ecclesiophobia is a complication of Bassilica-itis, which can only be cured by undergoing a business-ectomy, which of course would be fatal the corporate entity which has formed, when administered to a large group of patients thus connected. Home remedies work best when small groups church together in a Basilica-free environment among individuals who have undergone a thorough business-ectomy. Check out www.hcc.com and start being the church.

Kimberly said...

Just to clarify Tom's comment, I believe he was refering to www.hccentral.com (not the insurance company @ www.hcc.com).
: )