I’ve been going to church my whole life. I even bragged to friends that I never missed Sunday School as a child except when I visited my grandparents. (I even went when I had the chicken pox!) When I was younger I belonged to every church activity possible- choir, bells, puppets, clowns, serving in the church’s soup kitchen… I mean everything. We moved when I was in middle school, but still…. As a teen I was super involved in youth group & leadership. Even into my first few years of college, I went to the church I grew up in & attended community groups.
And while that church continues to preach the gospel, I left. I left because of sin committed against me, & I just couldn’t be there. (I definitely believe this sin is forgiven, but I am a true believer that sin has physical & earthly consequences.) My parents left & moved. I church hopped for a while, but still attended A church on Sundays. I’d go to church with friends invited me, or to a local church that’s kind of big in numbers so no one really knew if you were new or not, & it had a lot of people my age. I’d go, but I never felt ‘seen.’ How dumb does that sound? Pretty silly, right?
I never felt like people noticed me or reached out, but at the same time I wasn’t making an effort to get to know anyone, get involved, or taking steps toward fixing the hurt of being alone.
Why is it that as an adult I’m struggling to feel this way? Isn’t it suppose to be pre-teens that struggle with feeling accepted? No. By talking to a handful of people, I’ve realized I’m not the only one who struggles with this- feeling invisible at church.
Lately I’ve complained about this to my coworkers (who are also followers of Christ, how sweet is that!). I told them that I’ve been going to a new church by my house since November, and I don’t think the pastors could pick me out of a line-up. Actually, on Easter, the pastor’s wife spoke to me (because I was with my sister, who was a friend of hers), and mentioned how nice if was of me to visit the church that Easter. I was pissed. I’ve been coming to this church for like 5 months! How are you just now seeing me? It’s not a large church! I’M GOING THROUGH THE MEMBERSHIP CLASS THAT YOUR HUSBAND LEADS, WHY DO YOU THINK I’M NEW? (I recognize my fault in this: I held her to a higher standard because she’s the pastor’s wife. I could, just as easily, made an effort to seek her out, too, previous to this. Even though I’m equally guilty of not talking to her, I still was hurt.)
By the by, I’m taking the membership class, because I was convicted (thanks God, through coworkers), that I can’t complain about not feeling ‘seen’ if I don’t try to be ‘seen.’ I don’t think the point of church is to be noticed by others, but I do think that as a community of believers we should ALL be welcoming to all. Whether that be saying hi to people who sit near you, or asking if they’re in a community group, or even just a smile and eye contact- helping people feel like they’re in the right place is just nice.
Through the membership class, a pastor emailed me and connected me with a lady in the church. This lady, Crystal, immediately responded to the email thread and invited me to her community group THAT night. As an introvert who likes to prepare for new social interactions, I was SO NERVOUS! I went. I went the following week. I met up with one of the leaders of the group, this week, for coffee. It was great. It is great.
I’m mad at myself for not trying to be involved earlier. I’m still a little hurt that I didn’t feel reached out to (in all fairness, Sydney from work has invited me to her community group. A girl in the membership class also invited me to hers). I don’t know what I was expecting. I don’t know what the ideal church would have done. I do know that my introversion is not an excuse. That my pride got the best of me- I didn’t talk to new people because I was scared of coming across as weird and desperate; that people wouldn’t see me as Liz, but instead only as Gayle’s sister.
Why did this take me 5 months? Why was I scared? Why was I hurt? Why didn’t I do anything? Why? Why? Why?
Am I the only one who struggles with this? I know I’m not, but it would be great to hear how other people got over feeling this way too!