Girl Writing "You are so loved" on a paper bag

Church vs. God

Nov 2, 2023

I think there is often a gap between Church and God! I know that’s a bold statement, but hear me out. To me, God is limitless love, true forgiveness, and utmost safety. But often, within churches, we hear judgement, and fear tactics, and boundaries. It may be human nature, it may be ignorance, it may be unintentional – but, whatever it is, it feels yucky!

My first experience with this was at a young age. I was in the 2nd grade of my small town’s only parochial elementary school. I was the only student in my class with divorced parents (hard to believe there was a time when it wasn’t in 50% of homes like it is today), with my father not even living in the same state. Our parents didn’t normally “stand united” in many things for me and my sister, but being part of the Catholic Church and attending this school was one of their “agreeable decisions.” So, there I was. And I was “all in” ready for my First Communion.

This was a big deal for me! We had already purchased my fancy white dress, tights, and veil. I had gone through all the classes – ready to take this next step with God and my church. Getting ready to walk down the aisle of the church with my mom and dad, practicing for the “big day,” I kinda felt like I imagined a beautiful bride to feel practicing for her wedding day (yes, I had a big imagination, even in 2nd grade)! It all felt so Godly and beautiful.

I grabbed the arms of my mom and dad and got ready for our practice turn. So many emotions were rushing through me and a huge smile was across my face. I remember looking up at both of them, so excited, because I was also thinking this was one of the only things I had gotten to do with BOTH of them in a very long time. But then (insert the “dun, dun, dun”….kinda like a movie ready to introduce the “twist”) the school nun and church priest stopped us and said (in a not so subtle tone) “oh, BOTH of your parents can’t walk you down the aisle, they’re not married!” I stopped in my tracks (pretty sure I wanted to cry, but didn’t…I don’t think…maybe I did…I may have blocked that part out). I was crushed!!

My mom went into instant “defense mode” and my dad just looked at them in awe. It felt awful (pretty sure for all three of us). I remember thinking, even in 2nd grade, that comment didn’t feel like God! It didn’t feel like love. It was a rule of a church that probably seemed to make so much sense to them, but created such heartache, hurt and confusion for a little girl so excited to do something for God. I remember feeling certain that wasn’t how God would want anyone to feel.

I ended up being able to go through First Communion with both parents by my side (pretty sure I am glad I wasn’t a part of the conversations getting us to that point), but I remember being so confused by all the feelings brought on by all of it. It was odd. A part of me felt so happy – and proud – proud to be able to be considered “enough” in God’s eyes to be able to go through this whole process. Yet, in an instant, so “not enough,” slightly “unwanted” and now definitely more curious about this “church stuff.” From that moment on, I remember thinking I wanted to love and see people by God’s rules, not by “church rules.”

Now, I have to say, none of this is necessarily any reflection of the Catholic Church today (or any other church for that matter), this is simply a story of my own childhood. But it’s an experience that still makes me wonder – do we, all too often, set strange “rules” and expectations and guidelines and “limits” for our churches that then, in turn, create a sense of people in churches feeling “not enough” or “unwanted?” Do we set unwelcoming boundaries? Do we allow our happy “God place” to create unhappy experiences? Don’t get me wrong, guidelines and rules are good (in pretty much anything we experience in life), but are they made with the best intentions, with a welcoming heart and an open mind – to all?

Maybe that’s it – maybe the things guiding us “church people” (for lack of a better description) have lacked open-mindedness, with interpretations of the Bible that “limit” our capacity to love? Which brings me to another big point – Bible interpretations – I really do think that’s a thing that we, as humans, can let get “in the way” of what’s really important. We all want to have it mean something relevant to us – our version of “what it right” and “what is wrong”. What if we went back to the roots of it all and realized it is simply about love, loving all people; and doing and being good, to ourselves and others. It is not our role to place judgement. Encourage rules, yes, place judgement, no.

So, today, now – I pose a challenge to ALL of us. Let’s all join together in love. Loving the way God loves – the way His son, Jesus, loved on this very Earth – unconditionally. Let’s welcome all types of people into our hearts and prayers, for those of us who pray (me, me!). I have to believe, if we lived by THIS interpretation of the Bible – loving and being the people God wants us to be – there would not be division between Church and God! There wouldn’t be any “both of your parents can’t walk you down the aisle” rules. There wouldn’t be that feeling of “not enough.” We are ALL “enough” and, in fact, beautiful in God’s eyes – so I think it’s a fine time for all of us to start treating each other like it.



you said:

  1. Teresa A Schalois says:

    love this Jj!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *