“I don’t understand why we go to a church forty-five minutes away,” I say, gripping the steering wheel as I practice my driving.
Dad leans back in his seat. “What’s the problem with that?”
“It takes us out of the community.”
“Fine, okay, I’ll tell you what,” he says. “You can pick a local church and I’ll take you there.”
“No. Never mind.”
“It won’t make a difference,” I say.
“I thought you wanted to go to a church in the local community.”
“I did but, it’s fine, the church we go to now…”
I pull into our driveway and say, “I just wish we didn’t go to a church forty-five minutes away.”
My dad is speechless.
I’ve been crabby about a lot of things lately, notably church. The Christian Reformed church that my family attends has a solid theology and a friendly congregation, but it’s a subculture that I’m struggling to feel a part of. They’ve all known each other for generations, they all send their kids to the local Christian Reformed school and then, eventually, onto the Christian Reformed college, Calvin. They’re all white which, as Dad warns my brother and I, is not a problem until we make it one. However, there’s no denying the hundreds of eyes on my mom and brother and I every Sunday morning as we head towards a pew. They ask us if we’re Dutch as though it would help explain why we’re here.
I can’t shake the feeling that I’m popping out of nowhere. It’s a feeling that I use to explain why I dread talking to people at church and also why I moan about not having any friends there. I feel like I’m living in the in-betweens of other people’s lives. At work, although every single person there has been more than kind to me, most of them have still known each other for years and I use that as an excuse for why I’m not deep, close friends with any of them.
I want to be back at a place where everyone knows me. I want to go to a church dinner and not have to sit by myself while the other ladies crowd together at another table (that actually happened). I want to skip all the getting-to-know-each-other and go straight to being good friends with a lot of memories to share. I want this new-girl, transition period to be over.
Naturally, I reflect longingly on my past life in England where I had a circle of friends and a loving church family. What I forget is that there was a point when I didn’t have any of that. Upon first arriving in England, exactly three years ago, I knew no one. I was just tentatively attending a local church on Sunday mornings, sharing dinner with my flatmates, and chatting with my coursemates before entering a lecture.
It was definitely easier to make friends because the university setting is social by nature, but I still had to make baby steps to develop strong friendships. There were a lot of false starts, a lot of awkward moments, a lot of misunderstandings and a lot of false first impressions. But I gradually became part of a network that made leaving England so hard for me. It took three years but God sent me the right people, one-by-one, at perfect times.
I need to have faith that that will happen again. I’m angry for having been uprooted from my life in England. It has closed my heart and mind from rebuilding a network here in my new home. I struggle to believe that I will make friends or become part of a church family like the one I left behind. But I know having this attitude will make that belief definite.
So I pray for patience, for friends, and for a church family. I feel like I have no faith whatsoever but I must have some faith if I’m praying. The Bible says that faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains so I ask God to take my mustard-seed faith and move mountains with it.
Massachusetts, if you keep an open mind to me, I’ll keep an open mind to you.