There is no tension like that which occurs when I, as an adult, married for 20 years, mother of three, spends more than 24 hours consistently with my or my husband’s family of origin. The tricky balance happens while managing the expectations of each people group: the parents, the grown siblings, the children, the husband, the nieces/nephews, and most difficult…those of myself. I get caught between seeking out my own needs, to stay safe internally and sane, with the desire to be a hospitable host, entertainer and conversant. I have not found the solution to this strain, other than to manage my own needs most of all. For an introvert, this can look rather selfish on the outside, as I hole myself in the little corner of my house that provides me with a brief sense of relief. As a 42 year old, as much as I feel I’ve made little headway in this land of fog, I do know that I have grown.
As a college student, when this process really began, I would return home for breaks, longing for the comforts of home: good food, safety, familiarity, laundry facilities. Yet, even after being gone for a short time, I noticed that I didn’t quite belong anymore. Life in my family’s home did not stop for me, I felt a bit like an outsider. Now that I have been out of the nest for over 20 years, I can say I have reached a differentiated state, where as an adult, I am learning who I am, what feeds me, exploring boundaries and respecting differences. The process, however, has not been ideal, pretty or comfortable.
Early in our marriage, my husband and I would have our worst times while with extended family. He would gravitate toward the old patterns of his youth, and I would do the same…trying to navigate the minefield of how to differentiate as a couple and as grown adults, while with people who have provided and nurtured life. There were many tears shed, particularly as I felt pulled in every direction, trying to please each party entirely. Thankfully, after almost a quarter century, we have found a happy medium and a united front.
I often wonder if this might be part of my tension with church. Just as my church served me well throughout my formative years…protecting, teaching, showing and guiding…I believe I am in the process of differentiation. The church was faithfully present during the traumatic events of my youth. I was known and deeply loved. I could say that church saved me, it provided identity, safety and clear boundaries. As I reflect, I realize now that much of my devotion to God was defined by church involvement.
I have left the faith of my youth. When I attend church now, or get with certain Christians, I feel tension. The “proving” component of my faith, the earning and the doing, needs to take a backseat.
I long to rest in the work of the Holy Spirit, in and through me. As much as I crave the comfort and safety of the people, the songs, the messages, I am still learning what it means to walk by faith, in my own expression. I want to live in the knowledge and confidence that His love for me is sure. I want my work to be characterized by love, justice and humility. I want to live my faith out by listening, waiting, and resting.
It’s time to hang up the credentials of being a professional church-going Christian.