Challenges of going to church

Last weekend, I decided to try going to church.

It had only been more than twelve months since the last time!

While feeling ‘too worn out and unwell’ is my usual reason for avoiding church, it’s also true that over time, I lost the desire to go. This wouldn’t be surprising to anyone with a chronic illness. After all, why go to a place that’s mostly full of healthy and (presumably) happy people? How would you be able to relate to them? Wouldn’t they just make you feel even more alienated? What could you talk about?

…why go to a place that’s mostly full of healthy and (presumably) happy people? How would you be able to relate to them?

You mightn’t feel like you could discuss health-related topics with just anyone who asked, and perhaps you wouldn’t want to. At the same time, because you don’t get out much, you’re also not well-positioned to discuss even general topics.

It’s a quandary.

How do you show an interest in interacting with people, while keeping within your physical limitations? Leave too soon, and you won’t get to meet anyone (and you might come across as aloof or disinterested). Leave later, and you might have a positive social experience, but then you probably won’t remember what was said. Due to the ensuing brain fog, you’re also likely to instantly forget the names—and maybe even the faces—of the people you’ve just met! Awkward.

In the first year of illness, I often made considerable efforts to attend church, only to find that mere preparation for church left me too worn out to actually get there. (On odd occasions, I did get there, but—sadly—found the experience unsustainably exhausting.)

Once there, the possibility of the subject of health coming up complicated things. Even saying, “I’m well (i.e. okay/alive/breathing), thanks” in a bid to avoid the topic was more than I had energy for.

Anyway, this time around, I did actually get to church! Yes, I arrived late, sat at the very back, and left the minute the service finished… but I was there. Missed the music, but the sermon was powerful. I was also able to briefly catch up with a couple of familiar faces.

Another benefit of being there in person? I finally collected my mail! There were a few flyers and a calendar in my pigeonhole, but thankfully not too much.

Upon arriving home, I crashed out on the couch all afternoon, flat exhausted. Importantly, though, I have realised that attending church is within the realms of ‘possible’ for me now, even if only sometimes. That itself is an empowering thought.

For so long, I’d considered church to be out of reach.

Are you a chronically ill believer? Do you attend church, or have you done so in the past? What are some of your experiences, good and bad?

I’d love to hear your stories. Feel free to comment below!

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