I don’t know how many times I heard someone say to me “I’m spiritual but I’m not religious.” This is such a dangerous statement. I usually reply “You do know that the devil is pure spirit, right?” The thing is that I don’t care how smart you are, the devil is smarter. He knows way more than you and on some levels; he knows you and your weaknesses more than you do. He has been studying mankind for a very long time. I have many thoughts regarding this subject, way too many for just one post. I decided to break down the post into a series.
The Time I Stopped Going to Church
It is so easy to get out of the habit of going to church. When I was younger, I would have every intention of going to church on Sunday. I would play hard on Saturday night and stay up way too late. When the morning alarm went off, I would hit the snooze button a half dozen times before finally shutting it off. I would think to myself, well God knows I love him, I would roll over and go back to sleep. I missed church once a month, then twice a month and then stop going all together. And, just like that I was no longer going to church. Looking back at it now, I’m shocked and ashamed that it was so easy for me to fall away.
Once I stopped going to church, the next step is losing daily prayer. I still prayed but it was usually to receive something I wanted or to help me get out of a jam. God, in his great mercy, always answered my prayers. Most times it wasn’t with what I wanted but with what I needed. At that time in my life, I used prayer as “a get out of jail free” card, my ace in the hole. Talking to God on a regular basis wasn’t happening. I didn’t feel like I lost faith. I loved God; I just felt that I didn’t need church.
During my years without church and prayer, I relied on myself, but I think most of all I relied on the culture and other humans to define who I was, who I needed to be and what would make me happy. The thing is, I wasn’t happy or should I say I didn’t have joy. Sure I had some good times as well as bad. I had lots of laughter too but I had loneliness in my heart. My heart and soul longed for something more. I spent a lot of wasted time and energy thinking that if I had this career or that house I could escape the loneliness. Even at my most happiest, at that time, I still felt lonely. I guess you can say I was looking for love in all the wrong places. At one point I start to examine what is wrong and when did it start. I realized that the loneliness I felt started to happen after I stopped going to church. The loneliness was my soul longing for God. It is ironic that it was my choice to leave but by leaving, it was me who became lonely.
This all happened before I was Catholic. As a Protestant it is not a grave sin if you don’t go to church. Well, if it was, I wasn’t aware of it. This experience led me on a truth seeking journey which led me to the Catholic Church. Thanks be to God!