|Old Church in Dunlap, Missouri, via Robert Huffstutter|
When I moved to California in 2010, Kurt and I began looking for a church to attend together. Besides a youth group I'd attended at another church, it was my first time venturing away from my non-denominational home church roots. It was tough for me. I quickly discovered that my biggest battle was against my own judgementalness (why isn't that word?).
I found myself sitting in church with tears running down my face, mainly out of my own frustration with not knowing how to process the experience. I'd never recited the Nicene or Apostles' Creed, only sung a handful of hymns and didn't understand why pastors wore robes. But that wasn't the main thing I noticed; I noticed that I despised these things even though I'd never experienced them and didn't understand them. Perhaps I despised them for those very reasons.
I was also frustrated at myself for allowing church to be the place I was most judgmental. Why did I categorize so much of what I saw as "silly"? Was I just insecure about my lack of knowledge or did I really think deep-down that something about these things was wrong?
I've come to realize it was a lot of the first and a little of the latter.
I started, as many non-believers do, at the beginning: by doing research to discover the reasoning behind the things the church does and whether there's truth to them. I'm still not a fan of pastors wearing robes or Christians wearing their denomination's symbol as a pin on their Sunday best, but I have grown to love and appreciate many other aspects of a more traditional church.
Hymns, for example, have revolutionized my Christian walk. I still have difficulty singing them and wish I didn't have to rely so heavily on the hymnal, but that's nothing in light of how they've impacted my life over the last two years.
I love that hymns don't try to match our ever-changing culture. They weren't created to please the young person or draw non-believers in, they were written to bring glory and honor to Whom it's due. Reading hymn lyrics and learning the stories behind them has really taught me to love them. They are so rich and have much to offer musically, lyrically and historically. Their beauty resembles the beauty of the King I serve, their lyrics speak deep Christian truths and their history reminds me of the body of Christ that I'm part of. Trust and Obey, Be Still My Soul and Abide With Me, are three of my favorites.
I'm not exactly sure why I sat down to write this post. I suppose I wanted to say that being judgmental really stunts spiritual growth. I'm still learning this daily, but I'm so happy I am. And I also want to say, that despite many failings on the church's part throughout history, that there's still a lot to be proud of and to learn from it. We shouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to tradition. We're a part of something bigger than ourselves - an eternal community - that's rich and powerful.