Replacing Sunday Mornings
Editor's note: When We Were On Fire, Addie Zierman's memoir and the inspiration for this post, was named among the top 5 religion books of the year by Publishers Weekly.
There has been lots of talk lately about the millennials leaving the church, the roughly 60 percent of us who step away from Christian community at some point.
It's a perplexing issue, a knot that church leadership has been trying hard to untangle. I can't tell you how to fix it, but I can tell you that I was one of them. I left the church for a lot of reasons – some legitimate, some imagined. Eventually I found the courage to come back.
As in my new book, When We Were On Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love and Starting Over, I share this story not to assign blame, but to add a new dimension to the conversation. I hope it will give us the courage to offer one another grace as a generation of Jesus Freaks like me tries to find their way home.
During my self-imposed exile from church, I journeyed with others. The wounded, the cynic, the angry, the doubting.
First, we joined gyms. We started training for 5ks and 10ks, marathons and triathlons. In the mornings, we ran next to strangers, breathing in tandem, keeping stride, and though they didn't know us, they called out the strength in our tired bodies.
"You got this!" they called. "Almost there!"
At the finish line, people we didn't know cheered for us madly. They held up their hands to meet our sweaty palms, and for the first time that we can remember, we feel like the victors that the pastors always promised we were.
We attended book clubs that we found from craigslist postings on the Internet. We sat in some stranger's house with a glass of wine, and we felt strangely free to express our opinions. We said what we thought about the book. We asked questions. We wondered aloud what the author was trying to say about hope.
We batted around ideas, feather-light and beautiful, and we thought briefly of all of the Bible studies we attended. Those times when we kept our complex, doubt-filled questions bottled up in our hearts because we couldn't figure out a way to ask them.
Back then, we were in search of a place where we fit. We were leaving the churches where we grew up. The youth groups where we took our first wobbly steps toward whoever it was that we were going to become.
We knew it wouldn't be pizza parties and camping retreats and yellow buses heading toward Florida – this new, grown-up church experience. But we expected belonging. We expected grace and support and love.
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