I Wish I Could Enjoy Church

Arrogant people are the worst. Not only is their excessive self-confidence annoying, but they make everyone around them feel less. Because there's no arguing with them. If you have an idea, they have a better one. If you suggest one thing, they'll suggest another. It's as if they have no regard for anyone else or what they have to offer. I'm pretty sure most folks would just as soon avoid people like that entirely.

And I'm pretty sure most people see me this way too.

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that my bio says: "I envy the unquestioning mind." That's not some sort of eccentric hyperbole or clever bravado, I mean every word of it. Because contrary to popular opinion, many arrogant people wish they weren't.

My arrogance is the result of the unlikely combination of being cynical, skeptical, and critical. Or simply distrusting everyone, doubting everything, and declaring that "good enough" is a farce. But in the heat of verbal battle, I doubt these characteristics are visible to my opponents. Rather, I'd guess that most envisage me in a very tall, very polished ivory tower looking down at everyone around me and groaning at their intellectual puerility. To be fair, my esoteric vocabulary and frustration at those who lack an identical knowledge base don't help my case. But that doesn't mean I like being this way.

Case in point. Last summer, I blogged about my difficulties with staying focused during a worship service (read it here). For some, I'm sure they read that and think that I still take some sick pleasure in tearing apart everything that a church carefully prepares each Sunday. That criticizing the labor of others makes me feel good. Well, it doesn't. And for once, I'd like to be able to get through a church service without saying to myself: "I wish I could enjoy this; I wish I could enjoy church."

Do you have any idea how painful it is to call yourself a follower of Christ and to not find any joy in church? I'm not talking about different musical styles, sermon styles, or even denominations because I've seen it all. And I'm not talking about the hottest new trend of being a victim of spiritual abuse. No, I've only ever experienced normal, relational conflict. Which forces me to say to Christ's body: "It's not you, it's me."

photo credit: Terry Christian Photo via photopin cc
Perhaps it's the burden of knowledge. As I've said before, being a musician and listening to worship songs can be a trying experience. If you're not musical, you'll just have to trust me that musicians can't help but notice every note sung off pitch, every sloppy modulation, every fraction of a beat that each instrumentalist is from the other. But I'm also a Bible student and amateur philosopher/intellectual. Which means that I cringe every time a preacher teaches from a text that starts with "Therefore..." and never addresses the preceding context. Or when the sermon was clearly developed with the topic first and a passage awkwardly grafted in later to support it (something I'd call reverse hermeneutics if I were more arrogant).

Regardless, when it comes to church, I find no respite from my incredulity. And I'm left wishing that my mind had come with an exchange policy. I'm left wanting to be like Cypher from The Matrix--willingly surrendering my intellect to a facade of ignorance for a shot at being happy. Because when I sit down in that pew, I have to leave my happiness in the parking lot. And while I don't think God ever intended our experience in church to be miserable, I also don't think he wants us to pray to be someone else either.

So I'm stuck being envious. Wishing for what others have and quickly coming to despise what I've been given. If that's what arrogance is all about, I don't want to be around it any more than you do.

Comments

  1. I have the same issue. I LOVE what we do at our church. I'm not a fan of what others do at theirs. I become a church critic when I walk through another church's doors. As a preacher, I am hypercritical of other preachers and their preaching. "I'd say it like this." "I'd interpret that differently." "If only he had done this or that or the other thing!" I have to check myself for that arrogance. What makes ME the expert? What do *I* know that they don't? Why am *I* so much better? I have to tell my brain to shut up and to hear the Spirit speaking to ME through my fellow servant. It is so very hard to do that. I need to be less critical and more gracious. But then again, don't we all?

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    1. All true. However, I'm also not going to pretend to be someone else. I can curb the arrogance, but I can't ignore things that could be improved. As much as church isn't about me alone, it is about us which includes me. Self-deprecation isn't the answer; making our weaknesses edifying is.

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