October 17, 2021


"Yet this is the world God has made—a world that requires us to live with risk. Because God wants us to live by faith." - John Eldredge, Wild at Heart

This feels like a hard topic to even bring up at the dinner table, let alone share on the internet. But you know me, lover of all things...controversial. 

But in all seriousness, this post has been in my drafts folder for some time now with thoughts and emotions tying it down. I've felt like my relationship with (capital C) Church has gone through a major shift and it's continuing to do so as I unpack everything I've pushed down for years. 

A little backstory first, though. I've considered myself a Christian for as long as I can remember. I accepted Jesus as my savior when I was five years old during our nightly devotions with my family. It was commemorated with a Beginner's Bible of my own and later an NIV Bible of my own (with a purple carrying case and book tabs, of course). I went to Sunday School weekly (if I missed a week, it had to be because I was sick). I got stickers for attendance. I memorized verses like it was my business (because it really was). And my family even made sure to find churches to visit whenever we were on vacation or out of town. 

During middle and high school, I volunteered in Children's Ministry and then took a bigger volunteer role in Children's Ministry for the years following; leading preschool classes, training volunteers, coordinating curriculum, etc. A few years ago, I joined Worship Team and a community group as well. 

Church was a big part of my life and I really and truly loved it. So before I go any further, I want you to know that I don't have harsh feelings or any deep-seated hatred for the Church. We just have a complicated relationship right now.

All that to say, the pandemic turned everything upside down. At the beginning, I continued to record some videos here and there for Children's Ministry and played my viola a few times as well. The lack of community was really hard for me when we were all at home in quarantine and as racial tensions were rising, I found myself more and more lost, hurt, and disappointed by the Church in America overall. 

Church was no longer a safe haven for me. It was no longer a place where I felt loved and accepted for who I am and the skin I'm in. And it was no longer a place where I felt like taboo topics or current events could/would be discussed. And as more and more racism against the AAPI community arose, I felt more and more alone in my experience as minority in the Church, especially as a single female and person of color. I felt like I was acting like a different person in my roles in the Church just to fit in and couldn't find acceptance for the personality, ethnicity, and voice that God gave me. 

Which leads me to now. I've discovered this newfound grace for others on this journey. I don't have everything figured out (it's even harder when I don't feel ready to attend church in-person with COVID right now) but where I once judged others for leaving church, I've now found love for those who are on a journey similar to mine. 

I've been on a journey to unpack the thoughts and lies and worries and fears about Church. My biggest fear in leaving Church was that I'd lose my faith altogether. But every single time I've been tempted by the Enemy to leave it all behind and quit my relationship with Jesus, I feel deep-seated call to cling to Jesus instead. And so I have. To be honest, in all of this craziness called life, He's all I've got. The only ever-present, unconditional love filled with grace and mercy that I've got. 

Faith is a very personal thing and my experiences are not yours. I'm not here to judge you for attending church (because there are lots of things I miss about Church!) but I'm also not here to judge for for not attending church. Personally, I've found a lot of faith in prayer journaling, podcast sermons from churches that aren't nearby, and finding safe friends to confide in. It's been a really hard two years, but it's also been a really rich few years as I learn more about myself and Jesus on a personal level. 

In the past few months, I've been looking at other churches but am not yet ready to go to any in-person. I have have called my desk and room my church, playing and singing worship music in the comfort of my sweats and listening to sermons online or on a podcast while on a run. It's a different kind of church, but it's there's a sweetness in a simpler, less showy kind of church. 

I don't know what life, faith, and church will look like to me in the next year, let alone month, but I'm on this journey and I'm not as scared to be on it anymore.

I've come to realize that I don't worship Church and that Church is more than just a building. I've learned that Jesus is with us inside the building and outside as well. He's okay with questions and uncertainties. He's our constant in our struggles and pain. I follow Jesus and He's the One I'll look to for wisdom and grace. 

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© IN ITS TIMEMaira Gall