I haven’t missed a week of church since moving to Midwestern College Town.
This really surprises me because a year ago, I had been to church maybe once in the previous five years, and the first half of this year, when we still lived in Seoul, I went to church maybe twice a month.
But since getting here, I’ve been every week–in fact, I’ve formally joined a church–and I’m still kinda surprised at myself.
It’s not that I’v ever hated church. We started going to church when I was in first grade, and I had almost entirely good experiences for the rest of my childhood into adolescence. Some things began bothering me about my cheerily conservative Southern Baptist church in my mid-teens, but by the last years of high school, I had begun attending a rather sternly conservative church under the influence of new friends. Even then, though, church was overall a happy place for me.
On the other hand, I am (except when hungry) a very reasonable person, in the old-fashioned sense of the word, and the beliefs that go along with church aren’t very reasonable. So my typical college-age church lapses turned into a zig-zag between atheism and agnosticism, with occasional noddings along to the wikipedia article on theism, but with the thought in the background that churches were useful social institutions in some cases and that I wouldn’t mind taking my future kids to one.
Then I met Mr. Kim. Actually, I don’t know exactly how Mr. Kim feels about religion, but I quickly learned how his parents feel: very important. When Mr. Kim told them he wanted to marry me, in fact, their only request–in a country where parents are kind of famous for mandates on daughters-in-law for oldest or only sons–was that I at least try to go to church.
Maybe some people take no pleasure in pleasing their mothers-in-law, but I’m not one of them, and mine is a wonderful woman. So, here I am, with my name on the rolls of a Presbyterian church and suddenly a semester’s worth of consecutive attendance under my belt. It wasn’t hard; like I said, I have positive feelings about church, and my liking of old-fashioned things extends to stained glass and wooden pews and old hymns.
So, do I think the Bible is true? Certainly not the way I did when I was a teenaged Southern Baptist, and well, I still don’t know if most of the words are true, although I think there’s a lot of truth in the spirit. Do I believe? Well, yes–although I don’t say I have all the answers or judge others’ beliefs as wrong. Belief to me is an action, one that I performed as I reaffirmed my faith when joining the church and one that I continue to perform through weekly church attendance and fairly regular participation in local missions (the kind to help by earthly means, not the kind to convert) and fellowship and other activities. I believe in the mode of Ruth, who told Naomi:
Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. (Ruth 1:16b-17a)