"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do—but what I hate, I do." - Romans 7:5
Have you ever found yourself at 9:55 on a Sunday morning, wanting to go to church but still in your pajamas and dissipating down into your third bowl of cereal, bound to the couch by anxiety, or fatigue, or simply by sheer inertia and the compulsion to binge-watch Game of Thrones because it's, like, religious?
Have you ever almost gone to church and then gotten a better offer at the last minute—only to find out later that going windsurfing with Ryan Gosling or Kerry Washington didn't deliver spiritually in quite the way that singing your lungs out in a sanctuary would have?
I'm glad I'm a minister because it guarantees I will be at church (almost) every week. I'm always glad I went, and I miss it when I'm not there. Something feels wrong when I miss even one week of being with my gorgeous peeps, and a place where I very reliably encounter God. But if I weren't under obligation to attend, I would surely fall prey to the same inertias and FOMO (fear of missing out).
A recent study showed that as religious and observant as Americans (say they) are, they over-report how much they actually go to church. By a lot. This might make certain nonreligious folks rub their hands in glee, support for their position that we are all a bunch of liars and hypocrites.
But what if we don't over-report our church attendance because we want to look better than we are to others? What if we do it because we ourselves want to believe that we are the kind of people who go to church often?
What if it's not hypocrisy, but aspiration?
There's a tee shirt out there that says "I wish I was the person my dog thinks I am." I want to wear one that says "I wish I was the person my God thinks I am."
The reality is, God knows exactly who you are, and loves you whether or not you go to church.
But maybe you would love yourself better—or at least have more spiritual peace, wisdom, love or joy in your life—if you, say, didn't take the summer off from church this year. What do you think?
God, help me to understand why I do what I do. And if you won't do that, at least pry me from this couch and send me somewhere I can reliably encounter You, side by side with other human beings. Amen.
Molly Baskette is senior minister of First Church Somerville UCC in Somerville, MA, and the author of the forthcoming book Real Good Church: How Our Church Came Back from the Dead and Yours Can Too.