What You See is What You Get

Day 3

The effort of getting everyone dressed and fed and in the car before 10 am was enough to frazzle all of our nerves and the tension on the drive to church often left Josh and I arguing over where to park or who was going to check the kids in or who forgot their Bibles.

We would arrive with our hearts in an irritated frenzy and proceed into church where we would do the awkward, “turn around and greet someone you don’t know,” and we’d flash our churchy smiles and introduce ourselves politely to whatever random stranger was sitting in the seats in front of us. Then we would sit down having promptly forgotten their names. When you church hop or attend once every 4 months, it’s hard to get to know people.

We had a third child and unlike my older two, he would cling to me like a marsupial in a pouch. He howled like some crazed animal when we would try to peel him from us at the nursery of the church and so when we actually made it to church, I  walked the halls with him, exhausted while church carried on, nursing in the rocking chair of the mother’s room alone.

We were disconnected and disillusioned.

I would ponder what we were going to have for lunch. I’d think of how my Sunday was drifting away and tomorrow I would be back to schooling the kids.

This didn’t refresh me or meet any needs: it was a chore. When I considered a day of rest, rushing the kids to get dressed, brush teeth, comb hair and clamber into the car wasn’t high on my list.

I didn’t want to go through the motions and I didn’t want to be hypocritical. I loved God but I didn’t love the church. And I thought that was OK. After all, God meets us where we’re at, right?

Then worship would start and I would critically assess the songs chosen, the feel of a rock concert instead of a worship service, the singer’s bad voice or pitchy tone, the fact that the worship leader’s skirt was too short, the way the guitarist had teeny tiny skinny jeans and he was a guy, or the way they only sang hymns in a drone monotonous chorus. I carried my predjudices and pride with me into every service. No church was safe from criticism.

I’d look around and judge the people I saw sitting in church, cloaking it under the guise of discernment. 

Everyone is so trendy, this church is trying too hard to be hip and relevant.
No one in this church said “hi” to us when we visited. They’re obviously full of cliques and snobbish.
Everyone in this church is too conservative. They are way too legalistic.
This church spent way too much money on their building and the flower arrangements. They must be materialistic.

The pastor talked forever, the pastor barely said anything, the pastor didn’t quote scripture enough,  the pastor told too many stories about  his own personal experiences, the pastor is going to exegete every single word in the Greek, the pastor talks in monotone and this service will never end… ever.

There was always something wrong, and I never once thought it might be my heart. After all, I loved God, didn’t I?



  1. says

    Wow, what a powerful slice of life that I think reflects more Christian’s lives than we’d ever imagine. I have friends who struggle with these same issues, Alia. I’m so glad you are being this bold, this candid and humble as you express your struggles and journey in this messy life. I hope you explore this more so we all can benefit from the lessons you’ve been learning. :)

    • Alia Joy says

      Thanks Beth. I read this back after I wrote it and thought to myself, “I sound like a horrible person!”‘ But I would venture if all of our private thoughts were floating about, we’d all have some ugliness and judgements that don’t reflect well on what God is calling us to. I hope I do this topic justice as it’s such an important one to explore. Thanks for visiting and sharing here.

  2. Cynthia Swenson says

    I’m with you on this one! This sounds a little like my story! Love & prayers, still in Jesus, Cynthia

    • Alia Joy says

      Thanks Laura. It’s a struggle for a lot of my friends and from the reaction to this series, I’d say a lot of people are in the same place. I hope I can bring something to the table in this discussion through the experiences God is bringing me through.

  3. says

    Why Church? This is something that I have been wrestling with off and on for the past few years. Definitely looking forward to reading your thoughts for the next 31 days!

  4. says

    I can relate. I’m a pk, and my husband was a minister for 11 years. But after we left the ministry 4 years ago, I couldn’t stand going. Finding a new “home” seemed endlessly tiring and impossible. I’m thankful we’ve found a group of misfits who accept us as we are, but I still have a hard time with big churches. Perhaps I need a heart change, too :)

    • Alia Joy says

      Maybe, but maybe not. I guess it depends a lot on what the issues with big church are and if they’re born out of bitterness from hurt or if they are merely preference and you just would rather go to a smaller community. Only God could really show you. I know mine were born out of bitterness and hurt starting from my childhood and they just continued as I grew up and became more disillusioned.

  5. says

    I would have never thought to do 31 days with the nester on the topic of church. You’ve got me intrigued! Thanks so much for you kind encouragement on my post about Ghana and our well project there.

    • Alia Joy says

      Ha! I wouldn’t have either until about 11 am the Sunday before while I was sitting in church thinking I should do a series on church. And now here I am, praying for grace and wisdom where I lack it. Thanks for coming along in the process and the work you are doing there resonates with me. Blessings.

  6. says

    I think the point, for me, is which church is the one you don’t love? The people, Church, is perfect in Christ. Us humans just don’t see our community that way (but he does). The ‘church’ as in program, building, money pit (for many)..is always going to be imperfect no matter what, but God can still use it. :) We can love the people and not be fond of the physical environment. Even Disneyland can be an uncomfortable place to be in 100 degree weather, get sticky juice on your shoes, and not get a chance to shake Mickey’s hand..er um I mean paw..or is it a hand? Anyway, I think you get my drift. This physical world has it’s annoyances, but God can use all things for good. :)

    • Alia Joy says

      I think that’s the one of the struggles. I love the idea of church but the reality, both the physical and the people, I find lacking. And it’s in this place that we live and have to decide how to engage. God can use all things for good and does. It’s that choice. Do we choose to love the people and see the beauty in the imperfect?

      • says

        Well, you can love the people and worship somewhere else. I don’t think Jesus ever intended that we would only gather with one group all the time. Our little community knows we feel this way and we freely visit other churches whenever we want. We faithfully financially support our little place every month, but we believe in expanding our interaction with the Body all over our region.

        • Alia Joy says

          Yes, but even in a group we love and connect with there is imperfection and to get to the place where we do truly love on that deeper level where we’re imperfect and known but still accepted is a hard place to get to for many people. Especially those who’ve been hurt. The imperfect is always with us no matter where we fellowship. Grace in your community allows you to be both together as a smaller group and also love on other churches and Christians without division. And grace is something too often lacking.

    • Alia Joy says

      Thanks so much Emily. It’s been an interesting dialogue so far and I can’t wait to see what God has during the rest of this month, because so far, I surely don’t know.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *