Annie Lane: Friends at church think I’m ghosting God

Published 4:42 pm Friday, March 31, 2023

Dear Annie: I have been going to a particular church religiously for over 30 years. During the pandemic, I realized that my relationship with God isn’t defined by my church attendance, and I found a really great practice of getting to know a God of my understanding through readings, prayer, meditation and attending 12-step meetings to address my overeating and having grown up in an alcoholic home. I feel my relationship with God is more intimate than ever.

I now occasionally attend my church’s services, and I give what I can regularly. I enjoy this more than feeling good or bad based on attendance and tithing. However, members of the church have asked where I have been and why I am not coming regularly anymore, and the looks of surprise to see me are uncomfortable. I always feel I owe them an explanation. PLEASE HELP. How can I properly relay that I’m in a great spiritual place and answer them without coming across like I’m struggling with my faith? Thanks in advance. 

– Remotely Religious

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Dear Remotely Religious: What’s most important is how you feel in the relationship you have with God. After 30-plus years of worship, the fact that you feel the most connected to God now more than ever is quite special and shows just how deep your devotion and faith go.

When asked, you can explain to your peers like you did here that you’re still practicing but are simply taking your faith beyond the four walls of your church. Religion is far from a one-size-fits-all thing, and I guarantee those who also have a happy and secure relationship with God will be understanding. 

I’d also consider whether your fellow parishioners are questioning your faith or, rather, are indirectly expressing that they miss seeing you in the pews. Suggest attending the next church-related function together or catching up over coffee sometime soon. It’s important to make room for these continued connections, too.

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Dear Annie: I just want to thank you for your response to “Waste of Family Time,” who, after a brutal upbringing, has made multiple attempts to reconnect and build relationships with her biological family to no avail. It’s so hard to accept that the people you started life with don’t want to see you for who you are, rather than who they say you are. It can be lonely, but I’ll take it over dysfunction. I lost a brother and sister to this very situation, but thanks to God, I’ve gained countless others over the years. 

– Black Sheep

Dear Black Sheep: As unfortunate as it may feel to lose the potential for relationships with those we grew up with, I think it’s far more upsetting to live among people who don’t truly understand or accept us. Another reader’s reply said it best: “Family is an active decision that requires nurturing like any other relationship. Relish those who care for you mentally and emotionally. Those are your family.” Thank you for your letter.

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