Spiritual Booby Trap PT. IV--People Who Don't Need People--by LA Jamison
How many times have you heard the phrase "I don't believe in organized religion" or "I'm spiritual but not religious"? I know I have because over the years I have used those phrases myself when I have retreated from a more public faith and entered a more exclusive private faith. 99% of the time this happens because someone is wounded from a local church or their beliefs are changing.
First, let's put a definition of religion out there.
Religion is defined as the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or Gods.
Now, the definition of religion can also be broken down to include a particular "system of faith and worship" and this is often what people are referring to when they say they aren't "religious". However, even if you have developed your own belief and own means of worship, that too would still be considered a religion. It is easier for us to say this because our culture and the world system at large will often scoff at the idea of a place of worship. We know that though we found no acceptance from our religious institutions, we can from the world by saying we are "not religious". However, no matter your rift with religious institutions or how exclusive your "relationship" with God is, if you have a belief in God at all that you follow, you are religious. You have a religion, a belief system that includes the worship of a god.
Saying I'm not religious is easier than saying the truth. The truth is often that we are not digging churches anymore or that we don't identify with common practices in traditional routes of faith. Probably more common is that we are in a faith crisis that we want to work out on our own, in our own time without receiving platitudes or prescriptions from those in the faith. Sometimes we are divorced all together from matters of faith for a time. Don't get me wrong here. I am not saying that this is bad. I was out of church for seven years but this was after exploring a lot with a local pastor and faith counselor, and I never planned it to be so long. I wanted to do my own seeking. Eventually though, a sort of fear and bitterness set in by the time I found myself in year seven. But I was fortunate to have come out of the closet and found a truly accepting Church that I have today. We have an extraordinary pastor that cares enough to sit down and get real with me about my issues when I ask him. Is it perfect? No but after 20 years of heartache, I'm content and have no complaints!
So though, the seven year retreat was helpful in letting go a lot of homophobic religious teaching at first, seven years absence from worship was a long time. I had no reason to return though. I was wounded over and over again as well as not able to own up to my own harsh judgments and hate. It is easy to see jadedness around us--outside of us-- and harder to admit the ways we see that through our own jaded eyes. Wounded by self or others, a bitter heart is still a bitter heart. It is up to us to be the change than to expect others to change for us. When I got real with God, it became a lot less about insisting others becoming more god-like and more about me laying down my judgments and walls. If you find yourself more angry at others around you in your place of worship than laying down your own sins, so to speak, you may still be stuck on this idea that you don't really need or want people.
The Bible is interesting, particularly the New Testament with Jesus because it turns Church Day , The "Sabbath", on its heals by saying that it was created for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). Then throughout this book, it lists the benefits the Sabbath is for man (including that oft dreaded get together with other human / spiritual beings). Read these scriptures below.
not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.
Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.
No one can tell you that you are not connected to God because you are not part of religious institution that worships God. However, there is really no truth in saying you are not missing something very crucial to spiritual growth by living separate from it. Elements beyond your control get impacted. These scriptures above tell us what those elements are: encouragement in the faith, inspiration toward devotion, fellowship, breaking bread and prayer. There is a missing out on spiritual wisdom but a special kind of spiritual wisdom that comes from elders in the faith and being inspired by those strong in their faith. There is also a matter of a skewed perspective when "I" am an island all to myself. It is easy when I am in control of my reality to say and think I am strongly growing in God. When I am the gate keeper of what I experience, I control what comes in and come out. However, when I submit myself to a place where I have to interact with people, I am forced to face my own triggers, wounds, and judgments. It happens all the time on our jobs, right? This brings a soul/spiritual growth that you can't get sitting at home watching a guru on TV or reading even the most wisest of teachings on the toilet. And it isn't all just about convicting your soul to repentance. There are encouragements too that we all need to hear verbally and this cannot come from a place of faith and worship in God if you are not in those places to receive it. Your place of worship should include a sense of unity, genuine worship and accepting fellowship or I would go elsewhere.
Let me conclude, that this "booby trap" of separation from gatherings of the faithful is not meant to say that you should submit yourself anywhere that has your favorite religious symbol attached to it. Just because a vehicle is parked in a garage doesn't make it a car: Not all religious institutions are authentic, safe ones for you. It may take you years to find one but hopefully not. No matter what, as a person of faith, it is still true that no matter where you are, there is God and you can't lose that. Whether it be a friend or two, a group on the internet, make those small steps toward connection if you are separated right now. Try some places of worship where you can sit in the back and just observe for awhile. After all, as Barbara Streisand sings, people who need people are the luckiest people in the world. It may not feel like it all the time but we are constantly growing and experiencing those growing pains. It is a lot easier if you can be supported in that process by others.