I was raised in the church...like literally spent my childhood years within the four walls of a church. Church was like second nature to me. I knew to eat the leftover communion crackers for snacks and that if I said I wanted to "help" the usher, I could sit on the back row. I knew everyone in the church and everyone knew me. It was like a second home to me. I felt completely comfortable there. It was where my friends were...I had more church friends than school friends. I never questioned going to church. I liked going. I felt like I belonged.

Then, the older I got, the less comfortable I felt. I started to notice church was a bit like a competition to people. People seeing who could be the most spiritual, who could give the most money, who could volunteer the most time. The more this happened, the more out of place I felt. The more I realized that many pastors don't even realize that life exists for most people outside the four walls of the church. If I wasn't volunteering enough time at church, involved in enough "extracurricular activities" (i.e. bible studies, extra services, etc), or giving enough money, then I wasn't in the "inner circle". And all the more, I didn't fit in. I am the person who cusses every once in a while and enjoys the odd beer. And sometimes I like to sleep in rather than go to church (I know what you are thinking...SINNER!) I by no means am perfect, but felt like who I was wasn't acceptable for the church. Many of my friends weren't christians and the church seemed to have a problem with this.

Going to church became a chore. And the reason I continued to go? Because I love God and I thought it was what I was supposed to do. So, week after week, I drug my butt to a place I knew so well, yet felt like I didn't belong. I felt like a fraud there...like I wasn't christian enough. I felt like I couldn't even trust most christians. After all, I didn't want my prayer request to be the latest gossip, which it so often is.

This has gone on for years, many a years. We have gone to some great churches during this time, but it didn't help in making me feel like I fit in. My christian circle was made up of friends who didn't go to the same church as I. In fact, many of them faced the same dilemma as I did...feeling like a misfit within the church, within the very place we should feel most welcome, most at home. But, I had friends I could count on. People I could call to pray for me or just to talk. They were real friends. And to me, the church was not real at all.

All this has begun to change for me recently. When Ian and I moved to Aberdeen, we obviously had to find a new church. And this church, like all the others, isn't perfect. But, there is something different about it. Something I can't explain. I feel like I fit in. I feel like the people aren't trying to put on a show. They aren't acting like they are perfect. Everyone hangs out together after the service (and there is like 300 people in one service). We have been able to meet friends and talk to people. And I am now at the point that I actually want to go to church. There is joy in my heart about it. I feel cared about.

This has taught me a lesson. Church isn't about who is preaching, what they are preaching about, how good the worship is, etc. It is about the people. It is about being surrounded by people who want you to succeed. People who will encourage you when you have had a crappy week. People who you may not have anything in common with, but will give you a hug and genuinely ask how you are doing.

A couple weeks ago, I got a phone call from the pastor's wife. She just called to see how we were doing. In all my years of going to church, this has never happened to me. No one from my church (pastor's wife or other) has ever called to see how I am doing. It warmed my heart. Just like everyone else out there, I want to feel like I belong. I want to feel like someone cares about me (someone in the church, not just my friends and family), like someone has my back. I am finally getting to that place and it feels right.

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