Attending church is a nightmare for someone who struggles with social anxiety.
It’s the before part: will someone say hello? What if someone DOES say hello? Where do I sit?
It’s the passing of the peace: The Lord Be With You, and Also With You. Do I have to initiate? Am I saying the words correctly? Do I sound nervous? Do I look like a loser? Can I sit down now?
Communion: Am I sorry enough? Am I grateful enough? Do I have to stand in line? What if I don’t know what to say to the communion minister? What are the right hand gestures? Oh, I can’t take communion if I’m not baptized? Are people going to look at me weird, & judge me because I can only receive a blessing? What if I don’t go up at all? Then people will wonder, “What mortal sin did she commit that she can’t receive communion nor a blessing?” Will people trip on me as I sit down, though they need to pass me in the pew to get to the communion line?
And the after: where is the nearest exit? Can I escape now? Do I have to make small talk? I hate small talk. I’m not good at small talk.
Then you get to repeat it every Sunday.
There are so many reasons why I’ve stayed away from church. It’s the mind games I play with myself: the self-judgment & the perceived outside judgment of others.
But, really, it’s about hiding.
Hiding from myself.
Hiding from God.
Hiding from community.
And yet there is a longing.
To be known. Fully.
I’m entering a new stage in my life. I can’t hide behind my body. Or maybe I just don’t want to. Maybe I’m realizing that there is more to me than just this earthly shell.
Community: it terrifies me and yet I crave it so deeply.
I read a book by John Ortberg many years ago titled Love Beyond Reason. It was during a time when I was so filled with self-hatred. There was a quote that really stuck with me,
“You will seek me, & find me when you seek me with all your heart,” God says. But that is not the whole story. I’m not just a searcher. I’m also a hider. You too. We have to come face-to-face with our tendency to hide, to get lost.”
For so many years I’ve stayed hidden.
Away from Church.
Away from my Self.
And away from God.
I hide from God because I doubt His plan for my life. I have a false belief that surrendering to His plan means staying fat, dull, and single. Even as I write this, I kind of chuckle a bit out loud. I would think that the Lord God Almighty might have a bigger plan than that. I blame God for my circumstances, even though my sin nature is very much a part of my current circumstances.
It comes down to my view of Self, which is that there is something inherently very wrong with me. I’m not talking about a sin nature here. Or salvation. My view of Self is that I was created wrong, or what I perceive to be wrong, that God may see as right.
How can I learn to see what He sees, and latch on to that?