When The Church Doesn’t Fit Or Fix You: a Wild in the Hollow Guest Post from Christie Purifoy


 

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This post in the Wild in the Hollow guest post series from Christie Purifoy made me gasp. I had to catch my breath. I believe with all my heart that the church is beautiful, and Christie captures it here in a way that makes me want to celebrate. I feel a near addict to what she calls “the blinding light and the shock of the water.” Please welcome her here. What a gift she is to the church and to the world.


 

If church is a nest, I am the baby bird pushed out of it. Not once but over and over. Hop-scotching the map of these United States, I have always sought a church that fit just like my last one. A plan that has worked out exactly never.

I do not have the personality to choose adventure or newness for newness sake. I choose the ease and comfort of familiarity every time until that choice is taken from me.

Thank God that choice has always been taken from me.

***

At church on Sunday, we filed through the doors, past the stone font where my own four children were politely sprinkled, toward a blue plastic pool bouncing cheerfully on the lawn. Our sister had requested full immersion, and she would receive it.

In the Episcopal liturgy, the priest prays over the water: “We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation.”

I don’t know if it was the prayer or the dance of light on that blue, blue pool. Maybe the spirit of God still hovers over every body of water, even when the vessel is factory-made. Whatever the reason, I saw again the church of my own beginning, a country church of cowboy boots and ten-gallon hats nestled in the pews like doves.

And I saw again the clear, cold water of my own death and rebirth.

I held my hand between my eyes and the too-bright sun while the priest prayed on, “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.”

***

As I’ve moved from nest to nest, I’ve said this nest will finally fit me. This nest will finally fix me.

Now I look back and see how God met me in each one of those churches, despite the flaws. Sometimes because of them. Both the flaws in me, and the flaws in them.

My current nest feels the most like home, but it turns out that homes are structures of accumulation. To stretch my metaphor, they are more like nesting dolls (one inside the other) than nests.

I may still count the many ways I prefer this church to this other one or that, but the God I know today revealed himself, not all at once, but slowly, partly, and in very different communities.

I remember baptisms in the icy ripples of Lake Michigan. I remember that we sang and raised our hands while the sunlight sparkled on the water before us and the skyscrapers behind us.

I remember a baptism in the Orthodox tradition. A young father handed over his naked baby son to be dipped, once, twice, three times. I remember the baby’s startled, reborn eyes.

At church on Sunday, we returned to the cool dimness of the sanctuary, but my eyes were still dazzled by all that light. Singing and walking forward to receive the bread and the wine, I could no longer see the faces that make up my community. My small portion of a far-flung bride.

But I could hear them. So many voices raised in song. Surely all those voices could never be contained in one building.

The Psalmist says, “Your procession has come into view, O God … in front are the singers” (Psalm 68:24,25). That is where I want to be, singing a beautiful song in a gathering made beautiful by the love lavished upon it.

***

I have always wanted a church of comforting familiarity. Of sameness and sensibleness. Round peg for round me and, later, square peg for the square I had become.

But what if great Love reveals itself, not in the cozy blankets and tepid tea of my choosing, but in the dazzle of blinding light and the shock of water that leaves us breathless?

What if great Love startles us into flight?


Christie Purifoy earned a PhD in English Literature at the University of Chicago before trading the classroom for a farmhouse, a garden, and a blog. Her book Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons will be released by Revell in February 2016. Connect with her and discover more about life in a Victorian farmhouse called Maplehurst on Instagram, facebook, and twitter.

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If you haven’t yet read my (Amber’s) book , Wild in the Hollow, check out the video and the first chapter at WildintheHollow.com.

Thank you for joining us here during the Wild in the Hollow Guest Post Series as we explore what it means to chase desire, to find the broken way home, and to find wholeness.

You can continue to encourage readers here by posting your own story in the comments.

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6 Comments

Iris
Reply October 12, 2015

and I too, gasp... with much thankfulness and release

Jamie Harper
Reply October 12, 2015

I needed this today. I relate to the comfort and familiarity and wanting the next place to fix me, knowing that God meets me in each broken place. Here or there.

Linda
Reply October 12, 2015

Wow! Loved this reflection of your experiences over the years and moves. I've had many moves and amazing church experiences over the years. Missing the church amazing these days that fills my soul…loved what you wrote.

Diana Trautwein
Reply October 15, 2015

Stunning, dear Christie. Thank you, thank you, thank you. So many of us struggle to 'fit in,' when maybe that's not the point? Maybe the blinding light IS the point. Those tiny moments of blazing insight, that feeling of something Other, that joy that bubbles up from who knows where -- maybe that's what it's about. Thanks for this gorgeous reminder. Thanks.

Danielle
Reply November 3, 2015

I'm with you, Christie, in wanting church to fit like a glove. But I don't fall perfectly into any camp. I love liturgy and tradition but not staleness or fakeness. I want people willing to be real and connect emotionally with God but with the intellect too. I have grown fine with knowing no church is perfect and that's okay.

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