Sunday, May 13, 2012

What's wrong with Linden?

Me. After much consideration I've come to the conclusion I am.

Let me say straightaway that I love Linden and in almost all respects it's exactly as church should be, as far as I'm concerned. So why do I feel like an outsider? 

The service this morning was great: good worship - I struggled to 'get into' it but that was my problem - and good message, which was 'be yourself, don't try to be somebody else.' And maybe that's my difficulty. The myself that I am is quiet, bad at small talk and not very sociable, which makes mixing with a large crowd of people difficult. Certainly makes belonging almost impossible.

We've had a huge influx of new people over the last year and that's great. The new people aren't the problem any more than the old people were. I just don't quite fit in. It's telling that the people I'm closest to in Linden are those on the edge, the ones that are a bit different and those who've left in unhappy circumstances.

I suppose it doesn't help that I don't feel that I'm taken seriously. I'm vaguely entertaining and a source of amusement with all my mistakes but I'm not someone that you'd listen to. To be fair, I wouldn't listen to myself half the time: I know I get things wrong, I don't think, and I'm too hasty to jump to conclusions. So maybe I shouldn't blame others for their opinion of me.

And I'm not really trying to fit in. Building relationships takes effort and I'm not putting, nor ever have put, in that effort. I'm the administrator of a church that has been good to me yet I can't be bothered to work at what it takes to belong.

Zac's I belong. I feel on level ground there. Still entertainingly stupid but trusted. The work I do in the prison I feel is appreciated too. So is it about my need to be wanted, to be useful, to feel good about myself? That's not what church should be about. Or should it? Part of the message today was, as I said, about being yourself, not trying to be Sue Brown because she's wonderfully hospitable, gentle, calm, wise and loving, but acknowledging your own gifts.

I'm talking myself in a circle again.

Two final points:
It did make me smile to myself when someone in church today remarked on the incredible diversity of people that make up Linden. Diversity? Oh you mean slightly different theological viewpoints. Come to Zac's if you want diversity.
You can tell you're not really into something when you're supposed to be praying but you're trying to decide whether the flower print on the woman in front's tunic looks more like a puppy in a puddle or a hamster in a bird bath.


Zoe said...

Ah Liz, I know how you feel. I don't think you are alone, I think sometimes Linden appears to be much more open and encompassing than it feels like... but then it really does include people who wander in from somewhere dark and sad... but it's confusing how and who inclusiveness happens for. I think you are much more appreciated then you know anyways. <3

Mauigirl said...

I'm sure you are liked for just who you are! I too always had trouble feeling at home at church, which is, I suppose, one reason I no longer go. At least you are keeping it up! God, I am sure, does appreciate the effort even if you aren't sure about your fellow parishioners!

Anonymous said...

Deb says
I know you are talking about me because we have discussed this before.
Don't worry, I'm not good with large numbers either and often feel on the outside. Bit overwealming for me even though people think I'm confident.
I don't know even why I also don't feel like I belong either.
I'm also sorry to say this too because I am very very fond of the ones who work so hard to make it work.
I want to fit in.
Bless us all xxx

chalky said...

Oh, bum. I just started commenting on facebook, then cut it and thought i'd paste it here instead, but somehow that didn't work and i have lost it. Oh you would have been astounded by its lovliness! Bah.

anyway it definitely started by saying you clearly belong at the back, and i trust it is therefore clear that the problem is that you sit in a chair. Yes? And i went on to say that if congregational singing doesn't do it for you, you get there too early. time it right and you can just sneak in a cuppa before the talking. And occasionally, like today, you end up spending the whole meeting in the kitchen catching up (although the talk did sound good!!).

This is stuff i've been pondering lately also, as coming back after a while, having been quite a Contributor before and not being sure where i contribute now (I mean i'd like to! but circumstances are different, both mine and Linden's, and quite rightly so). I'm mostly enjoying being around. Not sure what 'belonging' would look like for me. Sundays aren't the best test for me, being not a fan of congregational singing and perpetually unconvinced by much in the way of public prayer. Sometimes I'm inspired by such things though, which means I don't like to wish them banned. Just on the whole indifferent, or 'appreciate it but it's not really my thing' (sometimes very inspired, very occasionally enraged!).

Anyway I am glad you are there, as you well know, although our communication tends to be of an e-variety, i love and appreciate that of old and i realise (now!!) that suits you well! I'm also glad of the other people who are the edgy old-timers, and am quite a fan of some of those who are new (to me, or to the church) also.

I wonder what belonging means, really, and what inspires/generates it? Rhetorical I suppose. Anyway, i enjoyed the ponder...

Leslie: said...

I took a "Discovery" class twice in two different (but not in order) years about finding my "gifts." I took it again because I didn't believe what it ended up as. But...after a few years I took the test again and it ended up exactly the same. 1. Faith 2. Mercy 3. Exhortation

Me???? I thought I was a teacher and good at organizing so I'd be a great administrator. But no!

So, I accept myself as myself BUT I do not attend regularly because after having worked at the church for 3 years, I began to feel as though it was just another big business. Also, I didn't appreciate the way the so-called "leaders" would speak about parishioners "behind their backs." I guess I got a bit jaded and disillusioned.

Now I still have strong faith and appreciate God's beauty in His creation all around me. When things happen that are difficult to understand, I simply put the situation in His hands - it always works out.

I'm a chatterer, Liz, so conversation won't be awkward with us when we meet. I'll ask so many questions about Swansea, etc. that you will just have to answer! Eventually, you'll feel comfortable with me. I am SO looking forward to seeing you again as I feel as though we didn't get much of a chance to "chat" when we were at lunch that day in Vancouver. I'll email you privately about when we'll be in Wales.

katney said...

Oh, Chalky, it may be rhetorical but it makes one think.

If it connects you with God that is the first thing. I think you do that pretty well, even when you think you are distracted. There is plenty to get distracted about sometimes--especially the hamster/puppy dress dilemmas--or some worse sartorial wonders. Acknowledge the distraction and say "Oops, God, I'm back" and get back to it. Well, probably not out loud.

And yes, God wants us to connect with our neighbor, too, but sometimes the God and me part is good but the people and me part remains awkward. It isn't always just you because it is hard for some people to connect back. I have felt on the fringes for 35 years, even though I am active. I now feel more like I am in. One friend has belonged to our parish for 86 years. It's hard not to be a newcomer for a while.

And you don't always realize who you have influenced and how much. I've had a couple of affirmations of that recently. And just from being me. Not going out to specifically influence these people about their faith but in the general run of trying to live a Christian life.

And you don't necessarily have to connect to everyone--Just love them. All of them. The lovable and the unlovable and the in between.

I'll stop now.

Furtheron said...

I have similar social ineptitude. I don't make friends easily at all - one thing is that if I am your friend I am in debt to and you to me and I find that burden a heavy one to bare at times.

I feel like this about AA at times - but stupid really, I went to a meeting I don't regularly attend yesterday and was warmly greeted by those there that know me but don't see me regularly. And I am concerned about them and catch up where they are.

Is there a "sitting just on the outside" syndrome?

Ole Phat Stu said...

I'm not socially inept at all; I just LIKE annoying people ;-)

This comment being an example thereof ;-)

NitWit1 said...

I have met many a church-goer with your feelings. Until I found the church I now attend I felt like rituals, or "going through the motions" were not what it was intended. We have small group worship 9 months a year in addition to our regular worship schedule. This has proven to be our salvation. Zac's is your small group worship. The only difference is your group probably do not also go to your church. We are all encouraged to rotate groups; some do, we don't. But we do have new ones float in and out of our group and we tend to grow closer to knowing them all.

CherryPie said...

You are beautiful person, you need to learn to like yourself for who you are :-)

Then you will realise you fit in everywhere.