On Being a Child of the Church

A reflection by Lindsey

Christian formation is an interesting thing. I see “becoming a Christian” as a continual process where each day, I have a new opportunity to become just a little more Christ-like. Like every person, I have a long way to go if I will fully image Christ in the world around me. I do my best to stretch myself just a little bit farther.

In order to give myself space to grow, I remind myself that I am a child. I am grateful to have been influenced by Christian traditions that encourage me to call God my “Father” in order to be able to call the Church my “Mother.” It’s meant a lot to me that I can grow in Christ under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit and the wisdom of Christian traditions. In the rest of this post, I’d like to share a bit more about what being a child of the Church means to me.

First and foremost, being a child of the Church gives me a sense of permanence in the relationship. Just as I will always be the child of my earthly parents, I will also always be a child of God and the Church. You cannot fail at being a child. Yes, there might be seasons of estrangement, but the underlying foundation of relationship is always there. No matter where I find myself, I am a child of the Church, and I can trust that the Church wants to help me to find a way to grow no matter what.

Secondly, being a child of the Church is an invitation to grow up according to my abilities, talents, and gifts. I do not fault anyone for an instant who does not have time, ability, or resources to grow in Christ. There’s no essential maturity line that one must cross to get into heaven; even if there was such a thing, it’s not my job to draw it. That said, I’m grateful for every opportunity I have had to learn more about Christian traditions. I’ve loved reading biographies of significant people, learning how different services are structured, uncovering key moments in Christian history, etc. I’m naturally historically inquisitive. My own curiosities have compelled me to explore the Christian faith to begin with and ask a lot of questions about how various things have changed over the timespan of Christianity. I wanted to understand why people thought the Reformation was needed. This starting question inspired me to learn more about controversy in the Church more broadly and led me to my current Christian tradition. I’ve asked questions like, “Why are certain books in the Bible?” and “What does the ‘Creed’ mean anyway?” Being a child of the Church means there’s no stupid question about the ‘family’ tree.

Lastly, being a child of the Church means I can ask the Church tricky questions about my own life. I am so grateful that asking a lot of these questions has caused me to hear an answer of “We’re praying for you” from the Church. There’s not one “right” answer for questions like “Where should I go to college?” and “Help! I really need a job! How will I get one?” I’ve also been really grateful to receive guidance from the Church as a parent when I’ve had a gut level idea that something’s the right thing do to but it’s been hard to put it into action. I remember trying to get started loving people living in poverty. I wanted to do something that would put me into authentic contact with people, but I wasn’t sure where to begin. I got started by driving for Meals on Wheels in the lowest income neighborhoods of the city I was living in at that time and took it on as a kind of spiritual obedience. Even though this example might seem glaringly obvious as an option to some of our readers, it reminds me of being a child of the Church. A couple of hours a week is a small offering and certainly many non-religious people take on this form of community service, but God and the Church inspired me to do something I could do at that specific moment in my life to help me grow up just a little bit more.

I know plenty of LGBT people who feel estranged from the Church: I can point to many places in my own past where I have felt estranged. I’m deeply saddened when various churches disavow their LGBT children. In my estimation, the Church needs to do a better job at offering unconditional parental love to LGBT people. I’m grateful that I have experienced enough of that love in my current Christian tradition where I can feel safe and secure in asking questions, both about my Christian tradition itself and the places I feel a particular need for spiritual direction. I do hope to grow towards Christian maturity while always remembering I am, first and foremost, a child.

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11 thoughts on “On Being a Child of the Church

  1. [I’m naturally historically inquisitive.]

    Perhaps you’ll be interested to read on The Mystical City of God (revelation to Ven. Mary Agreda) on the “hidden” life of Mary and Jesus from Mary’s conception to her death plus a brief “history” of Creation, the fall of the bad angels, fall of Adam and Eve, explanation of some parts of Revelation on the “woman”.

    (free online versions at ecatholic2000.com – abridged version and 4-volume original version)

    • Hi Jennifer, thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you found this reflection inspiring. I’d love to hear more about what you find out as you explore being a child of the Church in your life!

  2. I have to say it now: I’m addicted to your blog! Thanks Lindsey for the powerful reflection on being a child of the Church. I regret it that so often the Church feels more like a disciplinarian than a source of comfort, but you really take so much comfort in the love of God and the Church that it makes me want to think about how I can tap into that more.

    • Hi Cat, we’re happy to have you here. Thanks for commenting!

      One of the things that I’ve noticed in myself is that it’s easier to see the flesh-and-blood people around me a bit more in the disciplinarian role. I experienced a greater sense of relationship when I regarded the Church more as the sum total of history that established my Christian tradition. There’s something about feeling a sense of family with Christians all the way back to the time of the Apostles.

  3. Hi Lindsey and Sarah,
    This was a timely read for me. Number me one of the estranged. I left my church community of 10 years more than a year ago, but my heart and mind keep painfully wandering back, these past two weeks especially. ‘Mother Church’ is simultaneously an indispensable, deeply important part of who I am, and a context in which I now feel intolerably vulnerable, unable or unwelcome to be all of who I am without risking, at the least, a broken heart, and maybe an irreparable loss of something I held very dear.
    I sat here for almost 2 hours trying, amidst my little sea of anger, fear, and grief, to write something coherent in response, but I had to settle for this: this post meant something to me, and I don’t know what yet, but I hope it goes towards knitting together this wound that feels like it will never heal.
    -Suzanne

    • Hi Suzanne, thanks for sharing your story with us. It actually inspired our Saturday Symposium question this week. Leaving particular church community can be hard. Sometimes we do need to be away from a season; and there are times where God does draw us back.

      Please know that you’re in our prayers as you journey these waters. I don’t want to put any words in your mouth as to what happened a year ago. We’d love to hear more from you as you explore yourself as a child of the Church. -Lindsey

  4. This is a meaningful post to me, and I’ve been mulling over it for a bit. I wasn’t going to muster a comment, but Suzanne’s comment stopped me in my tracks. I’m not responding directly to Suzanne because her comment wasn’t addressed to me, but it does prompt me to comment in a particular light. Estrangement is such an apt word, a loaded word really, for what can happen in families, both the family or families we grew up into, or our Church family. From my own experience, family/Church-family estrangement cuts to the very core of who you are — a break with family is a break within yourself. For that matter, a break OF family brings that same pain. I have felt the anger, fear and grief of estrangement until I have felt nothing. I also recognize that there is a risk of broken heart or loss in making my way back, but do know that over time estrangement itself becomes the experience of a distant heart and loss. I suppose I envy the sense of permanence and stability expressed in Lindsey’s post as I try to find my way back tentatively, with trepidation, to my Church family. A season of estrangement doesn’t even begin to describe the absence. A sense of place can seem so fragile, and my return is definitely an experience of not stepping into the same river twice. My prayers to Suzanne and to anyone experiencing the pain of family/Church-family estrangement.

    • Hi Kacy, thanks for chiming in as well. My own journey through the times of estrangement caused me to look for something recognizable in writings of people who have gone before me. There was something about the “great cloud of witnesses” that spoke to my heart as I was dealing with feelings of being constantly let down by the people in the chairs at my various churches. I found my own motley crew of friends among the saints; and it’s easier for me to believe that they’ll always be there. Understandably, other people’s mileage may vary. I just wanted to share a huge part of feeling a part of the church has been feeling like I’m a part of a much bigger Christian tradition than any particular local congregation. -Lindsey

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