From afar, I could be the perfect candidate of a "church insider."
However, that was not the case for me. I did feel lonely inside the church.
"Fitting-in" the church was one of my biggest struggles. I always yearned for the sense of belonging, I always wondered if something was wrong with me. Why can't I seem to get into their "clique"? Why do I hear an imaginary choir of Mean Girls' "YOU CAN'T SIT WITH US!"whenever I enter the sanctuary?
See, I tried. I joined a special club in church for dancers/worshippers. I finished leadership trainings and I even humbled myself to attend an evangelical program, despite being a Christian born in a Christian family, and raised in a Christian school. I volunteered in Young Adults ministry and even hosted regularly. I changed myself in such a way that I felt the church would accept--I would copy how loud they would pray, how intense they would worship, how spiritual they would talk, how they would think--but it was like I was playing a character that wasn't me. I was just acting a role, wearing a mask. Because it was in that way, the members get promoted to "core" or "leaders" or simply, an insider.
Somehow, the more active I tried to become, the less my "fire" burned. The more I fit into the "cookie cutter," the more I lost sight of my unique DNA, of my self.
I was stressing about fitting-in with THEM, impressing THEM, understanding THEM, THEM, THEM.
Worst of all, I lost sight of my relationship with God.
And realizing that, shook me to my core.
From that split second of enlightenment, I knew I had to leave the "hype" of being "active"--I just needed to get away. I was crying every now and then in the hidden places. I felt so lost. I felt so far from myself. I felt so far from God.
I started asking questions like "What would be my real love language to God? How did God create ME to pray? How did GOD design ME to worship?"
I knew "template prayers" aren't God's thing. I knew He didn't care about volume. Or if I was bawling my eyes out or just being silent in prayer. I knew ALL HE WANTED WAS ME, AND MY HEART.
Just that. He wanted the real me stripped down to the most raw version of me--all sins out, all dirt exposed, my fears, my doubts, my dreams, my ambitions, my everything, and my honesty.
And for that moment, I uttered the most honest prayer I could ever say, no flowery words, no exaggerated words, not even a trace of theology…
And it was as simple as:
"Father, I'm lost. I'm tired too."
It was an oxymoronic reality, being inside the church and praying that prayer. But back then, all I heard was God's tiny still small voice tell me:
And I did. I broke away from the 'active church life,' I was more present at home with my family, I focused on my post-graduate schooling and graduated, I entered a new career, found lifetime-friends in my officemates (the kind of belonging I always desired for in the church), I got engaged to my loving now-fiancee, and things just naturally started to HAPPEN in my life.
I intentionally started my personal prayer and worship time, thinking I had to bring myself back to the way I would genuinely talk to my Father God, the way I would worship, and I had to unlearn some template words/music and I had to start anew.
Suddenly, I started to feel alive again. Life felt like spring, where there was blooming all around me. My career was promising, I had my own friends again, I was enjoying time with my family again, I was happily preparing to marry a wonderful man.
Most of all, I was enjoying a REAL RELATIONSHIP with The One Who Matters.
And in that season of intimacy with God, there was a comforting sense of familiarity brushing against the strings of my heart, and embracing me so tightly saying:
Well, I haven't "really" gotten back to "the church life" yet, so I don't really know how to properly end this blog. I don't know if I'm ready yet. Maybe I'm scared of feeling alone again. I always wanted to write a proper blog with a proper ending (haha), but guess what, I'm still on this journey. This process seems like a loooooong way to go.
But I'm sure, so sure, that there so many of you out there, who could probably relate to me. Maybe you grew up in church, but you still feel like an outsider? Maybe you are even a Pastor's kid, who doesn't like being in church? Maybe you have been active in church before, until your fire burned out?
Whatever you went through, please know that you are not alone. Let's go through this together. You are not an outsider, you are definitely part of GOD'S FAMILY.
And when you feel lonely inside the walls of your church, take time to be ALONE and intimate with God. Remember, it is ONLY your relationship with Him that matters, and let everything come naturally.
Don't be in a rush. Let's take it one step at a time.