On Sunday I was at the end of my rope and having a big ole premenstrual pity party and feeling all homesick for my ex-church. I got a lot of really helpful comments with ideas and thoughts from 7 of you-- thank you. This one made me take pause and really spoke to me. Thought I'd share it with you--
"I just want to give you a big hug. I know what you mean. When I went to college, I attended a church that was Greek.. mostly immigrants... Greek was the vernacular. The service and sermon were in Greek, and people could not understand why I would be there if I didn't speak Greek. But the people were welcoming. The yayas (grandmothers) would smile at me and the priest would welcome me. Over time I worked on techniques to help me cope with not understanding. My job was a little easier than yours because all Orthodox services are the same not matter what language it is in. The sermons and REALLY long readings always got to me. Sometimes I even started to fall asleep. In those moments, I would remember that I was not coming to church in exchange for some sort of "fullness" payment. I wasn't going there because I selfishly wanted God to give me something for my time. I was going to church to worship our Creator. I was going to church because it was the place where I could stand before my God and say "here I am" ... too often I went to church DEMANDING that God fullfill all the needs that I thought I had. I wasn't going to church for Him, I was going to church for me. "Oh Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me a sinner" At the same time, I needed to engage in the worship.I developed the skill for guessing sounds and lip-reading... so that I could sing a long. I sang along and worshiped even though I didn't know the words. God knows my heart even without the words. Slowly, my frustration at not knowing the songs slipped away. Sermons were harder. For the sermons, I brought my Bible and just worked on it. If the priest showed ANY sign of the section of the Bible he would be preaching out of, I would flip to that section. I would really study and pray those verses. If I couldn't figure out the sermon, I would find my own verse, or go over my prayer list, or take the time to seriously pray over the people around me. Not only did that help keep my mind from wondering.... it helped draw me in to the community. I don't care that the Yaya sitting next to me didn't know I had just prayed for her, I felt much more attached to her because I had just spent time praying for her. Instead of feeling like an outsider standing in the middle of a large family, I slowly connected with one person at a time. And I discovered something about myself. It was not the people in the church who were distancing me, it was me myself who was building walls around myself. I felt out of place because I felt more comfortable that way.I was afraid of loosing my identity...my identity in my own culture/church. I was afraid of loosing my uniqueness... oh it is so ridiculous. For the first six months or so, I embraced the very things that made me uncomfortable. God also established the Church to feed and love on His unique peoples. I am one part of that Body who happens to speak English... and maybe a little French. Yaya speaks Greek. But the Heart of this Body is the same Heart. I had to teach myself to hear that Heartbeat ... even without the words... coming back to the heart of worship. It NEVER replaced my home church... where my heart still soars :) When I graduated from college, I didn't want to leave my beloved GREEK church community. It took almost two years of frustration... but God had grown me to love the Sunday worship there."