How I’ve Grown Close to God Without Going to Church
Like many of you, my spiritual journey has been a patchwork of experiences with God, the church, my upbringing, personal self-study, and friendship with other souls on the path.
I have spent most of my life in church and have gotten a lot out of it. Going to church served my spiritual growth and I spent many years serving the body of believers I was going to church with.
At some point, however, the whole process and lifestyle stopped feeding me.
I share in the spirit of encouragement, because my love and faith in God has grown steady, deep, and strong over the past 10 years without going to church.
Some time ago, I really struggled with how much I had to do (that drained me) in order to be close to God. For me that included reading the bible every day, having morning quiet times, giving up 3 hours on Sunday to go to church, listening to sermons, and volunteering for church ministries. Back then, I wouldn’t permit myself to admit how much I hated it. How bored I was. How dead it all made me feel. I had collapsed my relationship with God with the duties. I feared I would lose God and my faith if I untethered from those things. I didn’t know any better.
One day I found myself dry as a bone. I had nothing but tumbleweeds blowing across my soul. I had no answers, no faith, no determination, no conviction. Just dust. I was 35 years old.
After a little time of rest, I decided to blank-slate my faith and rebuild. I took out a piece of notebook paper and wrote at the top: “What I Know About God.” The rule was, I could only write things that I, Stephanie St.Claire, really, really knew and believed. No bullshit. And no writing anything down just for fire insurance.
So I wrote them out, and there were only a handful of things that I really knew about God. It felt amazing to be honest about it. I felt free and clean and fresh and revived.
One of the things on the list was that I knew God loved me very much. Another thing was that He was powerful enough to course-correct me if I got off track. And because I knew He loved me, and would not let me go down an alley that led to my ultimate spiritual destruction, I became daring. I told God that, from then on, I was only going to express my faith toward Him in ways that felt authentically true and loving. I asked Him to protect me and help me grow.
And then I took everything that I ever knew about God, religion, and faith and I let go.
In time, the things that really watered my soul came back. Quiet reflection, journaling my thoughts, and even taking a day of observance. But they look completely different now that they’re inspired by freedom and love. This is what I mean.
My prayers are a constant ongoing dialogue all through the day and night. It seems natural to be in this conversation. Every morning, before I do anything, I have coffee and talk with God. It is a sacred time that I love and look forward to. I get grounded and cleared which I feel is essential to do my best that day.
Sundays are the oasis of my week — a time to get recharged and nourished. A few years ago, I started the practice of going completely off the grid from Saturday night — Monday morning. No answering email, no responding to posts, no taking phone calls, no publishing, no working, no producing. I don’t make plans, I don’t obligate myself to anything, I make no promises on that day. My kiddos have full access to me (as always), but I rest. I read for pleasure, take walks around the city, listen to music, write notes to friends, eat at sidewalk cafes, sit on the stairs inside of Grand Central Station and people watch, create art, nap, watch movies, wander The Met, feed birds in Central Park, go to the candy store, or ice skate (my favorite thing in December). The whole time, my heart is an open channel of conversation, questions, expressions of affection, inside jokes, and observations between me and God.
I end every Sunday with a walk around my neighborhood. I go to sleep with the happiest and fullest heart, deeply connected. I look forward to Monday mornings, to new weeks, to beginnings. I make mistakes, experiment boldly with life, laugh, and even break the rules knowing that my back is covered. I have the daily experience of God loving me… and that is something that religion never gave me.
Originally published at stephaniestclaire.com.