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10 Church Outside the Closet Imagine if every church became a place where everyone is safe, but no one is comfortable. Imagine if every church became a place where we told one another the truth. We might just create sanctuary. —Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church “I didn’t make it to church this morning.” This was something I have said quite a bit—and not just in college, when every Saturday night I was up too late for no good reason (though once in a while for a relatively good reason). I said it the most after we had children and moved to Bloomington. Regularly. Habitually. Each Sunday, I would wake up with so very many good intentions. The night before, as I drifted off to sleep, plans for the morning would have flitted through my mind: wake up before anyone else gets up, to squeeze in a shower and smell nice; make sure the babies eat breakfast and take a nap before church; clean the kitchen and start lunch. 189 I know, I know, the road to hell. . . . Anyway, I excelled at dreaming up plans like this for the babies. It turns out that that road is really soft and quiet, actually, and it beckons to me in the form of a couch and the warm sun streaming in from the window next to it. The babies went down for their nap. And so did I. I was overcome with guilt. As a disciple of Jesus, then a pastor, and now a mother, responsible for the soul care of these babies, how could I miss church? (I know, I’m being overly dramatic.) I struggled, and still do sometimes—with so many others, not only parents, but people in many walks and seasons of life—with how and what it means to be a part of church, the body of Christ, the beloved community, in loving relationship with God and others. For some, the struggle with church was not a choice, and I recognize the ways that many are shut out for reasons around their gender and sexuality. I’ve felt that same rejection, too. For me, however, the struggle was not only about conforming in a certain way to fit in on Sunday mornings but also about what it means to walk the walk and talk the talk in all aspects of life. I’ve tended to think that my connection to God needed to be enacted in a certain way, like a checklist : church, Bible studies, choir practice, Sunday school, quiet times. But then I read a blog post from Penny Carothers that challenged this sense of obligation and offered the possibility of “the sanctification of the ordinary”: Outside the Lines 190 [Medievalist scholar Elizabeth Dreyer’s idea that parenting is fertile ground for spirituality] has got me thinking: what if there really is a different way? What if God intended the hug of a child to mirror the numinous moment others achieve through meditation? What if attending to the needs and the play of children —really attending, not reading the news on my phone or folding laundry while I listen with half an ear—was a window into the spiritual? What if all I really needed to do was simply be present? After all, God calls himself a lover and a parent, and perhaps there is something to learn in embracing my life rather than trying to escape it so I can have real communion with God.1 This changed my life. It’s still a little shocking to me, even today, that perhaps the most spiritual, even worshipful thing I can do is embrace my life as a mother. And I don’t mean a platonically ideal mother, but a snot-wiping, baby-chasing, diaper-bag-toting mother, embracing the ordinary and everyday as a sacred act. Because our faith and identity aren’t cultivated only by formal Bible studies, centering prayer, or the lectio divina (a traditional Benedictine way to read, pray, and meditate on Scripture slowly and intentionally), though these are good and wonderful. Rather, sometimes it’s the simple “help!” and “thank you” that build any relationship, whether with God or with children or spouse. It’s that simple. All this meant that I didn’t feel pressure to drag the twins and myself to church if it just didn’t work out, and it would be all right. Lightning would not strike us from...


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