Early this morning, I leaped out of bed. I chased my five-year-old down the stairs, and let the dogs out the patio door. The clock said 7 am, and Sunday morning was in full effect.
Our cats and dogs circled their bowls for their food.
My son screamed with excitement about a new show on YouTube.
I worked through my mental checklist of what I needed to get done.
Animals fed, check.
Medications for my son administered, check.
Food set out for my son, check.
Coffee brewing, check.
Medications for me taken, check.
The clock said 7:45 and I completed what I needed to get done. I grabbed a cup from my cabinet, filled up my coffee, and flipped open my laptop to start working.
As I sat working on my article for the day, it occurred to me Sunday mornings never use to be like this before.
Waking up meant we had to rush into the shower, get dressed, and run out the door to get to service.
I’d spend the morning ushering in new families around the church, and I’d show them where to drop off their kids.
Greeting families was my job, and I loved to help others feel welcome in our community.
My son spent his morning at Sunday school. He struggled to engage with the children his age, and he often moved himself to the area where younger kids played.
My husband often found himself chatting with parents and helping parents that experienced technical issues with our church printers.
We spent close to four years with this same routine every single Sunday.
After church, we rushed home and got lunch ready for our son and ourselves.
From 7 am until after 1 pm every single Sunday.
By the time the dust settled, it would often be mid-afternoon. We had no time to connect as a family, go on outings, or get anything done in our home.
Every single weekend, we had one day to be together and take care of our errands.
Sunday always was spent at church.
Our life felt chaotic during this time, but I also felt full spiritually and emotionally.
At least I thought I did.
Then something inside my heart and mind changed.
The change began gradually, and I tried to ignore the lingering doubts that plagued my thoughts.
I didn’t believe what I heard in service.
Stories from the bible made little to no sense to me.
The direction of our church started moving in a direction that was opposite my families needs.
As members, we felt as though the church wanted more of our time, money, and service.
We gave all of ourselves.
We tithed to the general fund, and to the fund to build a new building.
Each week we served our community with happiness and grace.
It never seemed to be enough for the church.
Each season we received more requests for money. Our wallets had no money left, and we stopped going to meetings because we had nothing left to give.
Then came the service that changed everything for our family. Our pastor told us that we needed to tithe 10% to the church.
He told us we shouldn’t give money to charity because the church will give back to others. We were challenged to tithe 10% to the church for 90 days, and they said that our relationship with God would increase.I looked over at my husband during service, and I noticed his arms crossed and a scowl on his face. Part of me wanted to nudge him so people wouldn’t see his displeasure, but the other part wanted people to witness his disgust.
I did nothing.
When service completed, we walked out to get our son from his class. My husband and I didn’t say much to one another until we got into our car.
Both of us unloaded our feelings of anger and frustration we felt after listening to the sermon.
We couldn’t believe after all we had done for the church; they asked us for more. However, we felt most hurt that despite all we had given to the church, our pastor implied we needed to do more to have better favor with God.
The entire car ride home we vented to one another, and soon all of our frustrations from the past four years spewed out of our mouths.
We both felt our son struggled in class and didn’t have the support he needed.
We realized we had no idea where the church spent the money.
Neither one of us believed in the direction the church was going, but neither of us knew what to do next.
For a few weeks, we agreed to take a break from church.
Our Sunday mornings became relaxed and lazy. I noticed our son felt happier at home than he was at church.
As a family, we had more time to spend with each other, and we had more time to get things done around the house. Our priority slowly shifted from serving others and the church to helping our family.
By the end of our weekend, we all felt rested and ready for the week.
The break started out as a few weeks to cool down our emotions, but it turned into several months away from the church.
By May we had not been to church in months. My husband and I did not discuss our plans for the future.
Over the span of the months away, I realized I was happier away from the church than I was when I was there.
I no longer had to wrestle with the conflict of my firmly held beliefs about the world and what the Bible taught me to be true.
As a mother, I no longer feared my son, who has special needs, not getting the help he needed in class. My son no longer had to spend hours in a place that gave him anxiety and made him unhappy.
My husband no longer had a frown on his face every time Sunday morning rolled around.
On Mother’s day, we took a long walk and talked through our thoughts and feelings about going back to church.
Despite my fear that my husband and I might feel differently, I learned we both felt disconnected from God and to the community at church.
Both of us agreed we could no longer subscribe to a faith that did not align with our personal convictions on how we treat and respect other humans.
As a family, we decided we no longer wanted to go to church.
Since that day, we spend Sundays as a family. We can make plans to be with friends, or we can stay at home as a family. The best part is we are no longer under any obligation to be anywhere.
Our mornings are lazy now. All of us stay cuddled up in our jammies, and we move slowly into the rest of the day. By afternoon, we have the choice to be still lazy or do something together. The freedom we have now is indescribable.
Looking back now, I can’t even imagine spending our Sundays the way we once did. Sunday had become a day I dreaded every single week.
Now that our family is living true to our convictions and our beliefs, Sunday has once again become my favorite day.