When One Makes a Plan to Quit Church…

harpers-ferry-october-2008-sitting-at-river

God has a wonderful sense of humor I believe.  I’m quite certain that I make Him laugh out loud on occasion, as I can be funny even without trying. (I’m NEVER funny when I DO try!)  I also imagine that He has rolled His eyes, chuckled with minor annoyance, and wished He could THUMP me on the head at times as well.

This past week I had a couple of serious discussions with my husband about church.  I had a “plan” about when I would no longer be attending church.

I’m getting ahead of myself, however, so let me explain how all this began. I had begun consciously thinking about what I would no longer do once my kids were gone from home.  What started all this (dangerous) thinking was my epiphany of how different fixing supper each night would be after it became “just Terry and I”.  I have a “soon to be 18-year-old” son, who eats like most 18-year-old boys.  He actually eats very healthy… but he eats a LOT.  So while fixing supper one evening, I realized that I would go from baking six chicken breasts to baking just two chicken breasts in only a couple of years!

Well we all know how one “thing”, or one “thought”, can lead to another.  Before I knew it, I realized that I was thinking about how I was going to have to explain to Terry why I wouldn’t go to church with him anymore.  I hated to have that conversation, for I didn’t have a plan to stop going as a result of my losing my faith, anger at God, or a back-slidden spiritual condition.  I felt badly for Terry, because he would have to go alone.  And yet, it never entered my thinking that he shouldn’t be going alone.  It’s as if the decision had already been made.

I really love our church, and our pastor is a phenomenal pastor/teacher.  The couple of things I’ve discussed with him about people with hearing loss were always met with approval and a very genuine desire to help.  Churches are exempt from the Federal law (ADA) mandating that assistance dogs be allowed to accompany their partner with a disability. Chloe has always been welcome at my church. But…

I am invisible at our church.  I come in and a couple of people say “hello”.  I then go to sit down, make Chloe comfortable, sing/sign with the congregation, listen attentively, pray, sit around and wait for my family to finish their “clean-up”tasks, and then we go home.  I’ve actually written and then deleted a couple of paragraphs here explaining the different ministries in our church and why I can’t participate (or how I “tried” and it failed… believe me there were numerous attempts!)  I’ve chosen to not add that in this post because, 1) I don’t want anyone to think I’m being critical. I feel harbor no ill feelings towards any ministry or individual, and 2) the purpose of this post is to explain God’s intervention and how He’s made it clear I cannot deliberate whether or not I should attend church.

So in order to keep this from being “novel length”, let me cut to the chase.  I walked into church Sunday and went to my “spot” in order to sit invisible.  God sent three different people over to me that did more than say “hello”.  They asked how I was doing, what was going on in my life… He even allowed me to offer prayer and encouragement to someone needing to know that someone would honestly “pray without ceasing” for her.

I went from sitting “invisible“, to sitting “surprised”. Chloe kept looking at me funny, so for all I know my mouth was even hung ajar in shock. Yes.  At times God chooses to reach down and “thump” His younguns on the head.

In preparing to write this post, I was reminded that one thing many late-deafened people have in common is the trap of a self-imposed isolation. I’ve been to conventions, conferences, and support group meetings.  I’ve even spoken in workshops, research symposiums, and on Capital Hill. I should know better. Yet… I am just as much in danger of allowing myself to simply “drop out”, as someone new to hearing loss.  Why?

Perhaps it’s because “all of this gets really old”.  Or maybe we wonder if we are making a difference to anyone? My messed up thinking had me convinced that I go to church now because my kids care if I do. I didn’t have to twist my own arm or anything to convince myself that after THEY are gone… no one will notice ME gone.

I say all of this in order to remind all of us, that God can use anyone.  He can use the deaf, the blind, and those with mobility challenges.  He can use the hyperactive, the extremely shy introvert, and those who do not have “traditional” spiritual gifts or talents.  In the meantime, my involvement remains at  simply being able to faithfully pray. It’s very likely something I do better than most. I disconnect my cochlear implant, and instantly eliminate all background noise and distractions.

I think the late-deafened get bogged down in what they “use to be able to do”.  When I could hear I was in the choir, taught 2nd grade boys Sunday School, led two women’s Bible studies, worked in the Deaf Ministry (how ironic!) and acted as a secretary for the Children’s church.  I can’t let what I use to be able to do, keep me from finding joy in what I can do now. If the bulk of what I do happens to be ministries outside the church, it doesn’t mean that I should no longer go.

Don’t allow yourself to believe “church” won’t miss you. In the end, that’s not the point of “church” is it?

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal