King of the Hill didn’t change my life, but I will admit that last night when James and I joined our small Methodist church in our tiny little town, I caught a fleeting glimpse of Hank Hill passing through my mind. I’m sure Hank Hill’s eulogy would highlight his love for Ladybird (his dog), his complete devotion to propane and propane accessories, and his devout Methodism.
Hank Hill cracks me up, but he didn’t really have anything to do with my decision to join the Methodist church last night.
That came about as a result of discovering that I no longer fit well into my former denominational mold, years of developing my own private relationship with God, and after experiencing the love and support of both James and our fellow church members.
Having been raised primarily in a very conservative, and at times fundamentalist denomination, I gained some wonderful spiritual insights and overcame some of my most monumental spiritual milestones as a member of these churches. I will be forever grateful for the individuals who chose not to place God in a box but rather to express wonder and excitement at what He did in my life and the lives of others, whether it fit into the denominational mold or not.
However, over the years, I felt that God opened my eyes slowly (and sometimes painfully) to the reasons this denomination no longer felt right to me. I longed to find a church that would accept me (and others) just as I was, with all my scars and bruises and obvious snags. I didn’t want to have to smile and pretend my life was perfect or hide aspects of my behavior and lifestyle from people. I wanted to be surrounded by people who would support me, knowing that even if I wasn’t progressing along the path of spiritual progress as quickly as they’d prefer, I was still progressing, and that was good enough. I didn’t want to sign the dotted line of agreement on issues I truly disagreed with, either. I came to believe that I needed to find a new church to call home.
When I got divorced in 2009, I spent almost two years on my own spiritual journey without a church to call home. I’d discovered that my former denomination was no longer right for me, but I hadn’t found out where I belonged, either. I visited various denominations and congregations and spent a lot of time observing and discerning. Although I was going through a very tough time emotionally and financially, it kick-started me on the strongest leg of my spiritual journey thus far. I’d never spent that much time alone with God without any distractions. I’d never given myself permission to love God without feeling obligated to say yes to invitations to join this or volunteer for that. He worked within me in a way that only He, in His own silent way, can do. And it worked. After plenty of alone time, which also led me to go to counseling and find healing from some hideous old wounds that were still festering beneath the surface, I finally felt God nudging me to find a church to call home again.
Thankfully, James felt the same way without any pushing or prodding at all; it’s amazing how God can speak to two people simultaneously about the same thing without either of them having a clue that the other one’s hearing the same message. After repeated invitations from my friend Mary, and after meeting another church member who authored several books and helped me with my research paper on Methodist women in the Ozarks, we decided to give the little Methodist church a try. I’m so grateful we did. Full of warm, accepting people, led by one of the most down-to-earth pastors I’ve ever met, I discovered that the fabulous food served on Thursday nights wasn’t even the best part of the deal. We’ve been there ever since.
God has a strange way of reaching me, and I know I’m not the only one. I’m grateful that He never gives up trying.