This spring I started and finished Addie Zierman’s first book in two days, When We Were on Fire: A memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting over.
A friend recommended it to me based on her honesty in the book. My very favorite part was at the end during her Q & A. She was asked, “Where are you now in your spiritual life? What kind of church do you attend? What qualities attracted you to it?”
I would say that I’m still in the place of rebuilding and redefining what I believe. Our church journey was a long, difficult one. The church we ended up at in the final chapters of this book is not the one we attend now- though it was a safe place to land for a while. We connected with a few other couples and had a chance, for the first time, to share our story vocally and honestly. Our years there played a major role in my own journey of relearning to love “Church People” and in making peace with certain aspects of the evangelical world.
The church we’re at now is a small community church, and it’s really not all that different from any other church. But when we walked in, I could feel my heart expanding- and it was almost inexplicable to me, the suddenness of it. The pastor spoke, and he wasn’t saying anything new, but for the first time in years, I could hear it.
And I think in the end, you’re not really looking for “the right church.” You’re looking for yourself. Finding a church is about finding a place where your specific, beautiful heart can hear good news and take it all the way in. A place where they talk about God in a language you understand. A place where you can serve with your whole, broken heart and be healed in all that giving.
I don’t really know. All I know is that we landed in this tiny church one Sunday morning and I felt entirely myself. And we’ve been there ever since.
This resonated so much with me because I’ve felt that heart expanding feeling before. When I got my driver’s license I visited a new church because it was the first time that I could choose to go somewhere on my own. They met in a large gym and we sat on wooden bleachers and I thought that was cool. I loved listening to the pastor and I remember walking up and challenging him on something he preached a few years later when I was in college. We disagreed, but he was kind. I wandered around a bit but kept coming back there for the next 10 years.
The next time I felt at home at a church was when I walked into a new (to us) church 8 years ago. We were there for five minutes when I turned to Andy and said, “Can we go here?” And we did, for 7 years. And so many wonderful things came out of that time. Deep friendships that feel like family. The opportunity for us each to serve in a bunch of different ways. Years of volunteering with teenagers who are simply amazing and many who have turned into incredible twenty-somethings that we still get to hang out with! There we learned the value of vulnerability by hearing others stories, told openly and honestly and in turn we were able to share our own.
In the last year I’ve felt that heart expanding-ness again at a new church (okay, technically it’s the same first church I found when I was sixteen but it’s changed and I’ve changed in the past 8 years). As I read Addie’s words, they rang so true. I can hear the good news and take it all the way in– in a language I understand and relate to. I look forward to the serving part. It’s been a year with very little volunteering and I think that’s okay. This season has required some extra space for healing.
Thanks Han, for suggesting that book. And thanks, Addie for writing true words.