Love and the cross metaphorIf you’re like me, you’ve been in church a long time. You’ve seen the good and bad, the highs and lows, and in many ways, your church experience might best compare to a long marriage. There have been good experiences, but there are also scars, and it’s often hard to remember the way you felt when you first met. You may not recall the first time you walked into your church, and you may have forgotten the times when the thought of church made you excited, in a strange, anticipatory way that you probably last felt when dating.

My Lenten goals last year were to push myself out of my comfort zone, and that continued long past Easter and has brought me to a new state, a new job, and of course, a new church search. My husband and I share some integral life philosophies but differ on most everything else, so we decided to alternate church choices—one week, he would choose, the next week, I would choose—until we (hopefully) found a church we both liked. We visited Methodists and Baptists and non-denominational congregations, we visited large and small and in-between. We actually hadn’t visited as many as we planned, when we went to one particular church close to home.

I can’t say what it was about the church: the people, the pastor, the way the sunlight poured into the sanctuary just so—but I felt an immediate connection. I was comfortable, but also excited and intrigued. I wanted to learn more, as it is not a denomination I am that familiar with. For the first time in a long time, I wanted to go home and research what a particular denomination believed, and why. I wanted to know the ins and outs of their beliefs about women, baptism, and communion. I wanted to know why they practiced the rituals of Christianity the way they did, why they quoted the creeds they did, and why they conducted the sacraments in certain ways.

In many respects, it was the same enthusiasm I had when I first met my husband—I wanted to know more about him, I wanted to understand why he did certain things the way he did. I wanted to know and to understand and just to be with him. At the same time, I felt I’d always known him, and when he made assumptions that we would spend upcoming dates together, it seemed natural. Likewise, I’ve felt comfortable with this congregation—like we’ve known each other for years and it’s assumed that we’ll be together in the future.

It has been a long time since I’ve felt that way about a church, or a religious experience, and it’s exciting. It’s nice to know that those feelings of intrigue can still happen, and exciting to know that those experiences are out there. It makes me want to continue those. Whether through visiting other churches, or settling down with this one, I don’t know yet. Perhaps this is one in a long line of exciting first “dates” with churches, which will eventually lead to a settling down at a certain church. Perhaps we’ve already found the church for us, and we’ll enter the “getting to know you” phase. Regardless, it’s refreshing to know that church can be exciting, intriguing, consuming your thoughts during the day and keeping you up at night. It’s new, and different, and a lot like falling in love. And maybe this falling can help me be more passionate about not just the church, but the One the Church was created to love.

Photo Credit: Donyale Leslie

Photo Credit: Donyale Leslie

Kimberly McClung DeVries was raised in a minister’s family, first overseas as missionaries and then in Georgia. She attended the University of Georgia to receive a degree in telecommunications, worked briefly in that field, and then went to law school instead, also in Athens. She has worked as a public defender and for a legal aid agency, and now resides in Mississippi with her husband and two boys. Kimberly is trying to grow by pushing herself out of her comfort zone. To that end, she has a toddler and a baby, both boys, works full time as a lawyer, and is also helping her husband survive his PhD.

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