A Surprise Longing

As if we needed a further sign of the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse, I missed church on Sunday.

I don’t mean that I skipped church. I’ve been doing that to varying degrees for my entire adult life. Even though my job and my family keep me going to some form of worship almost every week these days, I still find an excuse to not attend church on Sunday every now and again. And usually, I think nothing of it.

But this time, I missed it. As in, I wasn’t in church on Sunday morning but wished I was. And I must confess to being a bit baffled by that longing.

The reasons I wouldn’t want to go to church are easier to state, but not that interesting to write. Suffice to say that, assuming the truth behind the proverb about familiarity breeding contempt, I am intimately familiar with church on almost every level—so much so that I swore off writing for our about church for the entirety of 2012.

You can see how long that resolution lasted.

But why on earth should I want to be in church? And why would I be writing about it now, when my writing time is so limited and my novel is still stuck on chapter 4?

I don’t think the answer has to do with any of the good churchy dogma about connection with community or witness to the kingdom of God. I don’t even think it’s a matter of guilt over shirking some perceived responsibility. If what God really wants most from us is just to go to church, then God is much less imaginative than I’ve given him credit for.

The best I can figure, missing church was a kind of visceral response for me, something akin to what I feel when I skip my mid-morning granola bar. It’s not that I desperately need it. But it is nevertheless a good thing that my body expects. If I skip it, I feel its absence.

Of course, some people might call that addiction. (My wife does, at least concerning the granola bars.) And some of the more dedicated church people might complain that my heart isn’t in the right place, that I need to work up a real desire for worship. But in my experience such things are like falling in love. You can’t conjure it from nothing.

Perhaps that’s why I’m okay with—maybe even a little happy about—my surprise longing for church. I question much about what we call “church” and “worship” and even “faith,” sometimes to the point that I wonder how much of this church thing I really believe in.

The surprise longing tells me that there’s something within me that hasn’t given up on church. Maybe even something that needs church right now, regardless of how I feel about it. There is something below my conscious understanding that’s pulling me to be in worship. As for the reasons why, I’m still puzzled. Perhaps that will be revealed somewhere down the road.

So like it or not, I’ll be back in church on Sunday morning.