To church or not to church

In a few hours church bells will begin to toll around our neighborhood. Their sound will float from unseen belfries over magnolias and brick bungalows, and find me where I sit: on our back patio, drinking a cup of coffee. It’s a peaceful moment, but also an uncomfortable one, because it reminds me that once again we haven’t gone to church.

Of course, we basically never go to church. Aside from a single year in Ann Arbor, and some scattershot appearances as a child, I’ve been unchurched my whole life. That year in Ann Arbor was wonderful, though, and just enough to make it seem reasonable to speculate that more church might be in our future.

Last fall we visited a half-dozen churches, but none stuck. Really, we were probably looking for something that doesn’t exist: a love at first sight experience in the pews. Toward the end of the summer we resolved to try again this fall, to pick one church and give it a real college try. Yet here we are on the first Sunday in September with other plans in store for the morning. Friends are due at ten. The menu calls for baked eggs, bacon, and buttermilk biscuits.

It’s crazy to wish to be something you never were and probably never will be. One of the hallmarks of successful adult life is coming to accept that who you are is distinct from who you thought you wanted to be. I’m never going to be a jazz aficionado or the guy you want by your side when you’re lost in the woods, and I’m probably always going to be more attached to neatness than I’d like to be. Maybe church falls into that category, and maybe it’s time to accept that “God-fearing,” even “church-going,” just isn’t a way I was born to be described.

But aspirations can be healthy, too. Until I was twenty-four I hated running, and now it’s one of my favorite parts of each day. A few years ago it took me four days to write an 800-word book review. Now, for better or worse, I can unspool a blog post in the time it takes to bake bacon.

Sitting here now, with the boys playing downstairs (pretending to be baby twins, from the sound of it), it’s hard to say what our church future looks like. It could begin next Sunday, or it could be the kind of thing where thirty years from now, we laugh when we remember there was a time we thought we might start going. All I know is that this morning, when the church bells ring and find me with a mouth full of hot buttered biscuit, I’m going to feel caught in the act, and like I really should be someplace else.

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