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  • Matthew Frank
    Matthew Frank

    The Inconvenience of Liberation: Chasing Freedom in the Church

    I remember standing in line at the grocery store, head bowed, patiently waiting my turn beside the elderly lady who was presenting her coupons and tickets to the cashier. I noticed her Bible tucked in her cart, and for a minute I wondered what it would feel like to have faith so strong that going to church was just something you do, ingrained into your routine like buying groceries.

    It hadn’t been that way for me. You see, I had always been the religious outcast, the one girl who rarely went to church and the only one in the family who refused to be baptized. It wasn’t that I lacked interest in the divine, but more of an indifference towards the hype and extravagance of religion. The thousand dollar robes, the idolization of the pastor on stage, none of it seemed to speak to me—and I found myself searching for my own spiritual liberation in other places, places which were much less conventional and often more obscure.

    But this woman at the grocery store, she didn’t have to search, she already knew where to look. In fact, it seemed that all she had to do was open her Bible and she would find all the answers she needed right there. This thought filled me with a slight pang of envy—the idea that somewhere someone else had the answers that I didn’t.

    Despite this feeling of disconnect, I still wanted to embrace the perspective of this woman and all reflections that come with it. Yet, I knew my liberation could only come from within me and from my own connection to the divine—or whatever form that may take. But I also belied my spiritual awakening would come not from turning away from church, but rather turning back to it with fresh eyes.

    “All doors have been opened, everyone is invited in,” I reflected. Yet it was strange to stand on the threshold of an old familiar place now with an unfamiliar understanding: what if I didn’t need to go to church every week to expel my demons? Maybe all I had to do was recognize them and allow them freedom to exist?

    It can be easy to cling to old habits even when they no longer bring us the same satisfaction, especially when those habits are deeply rooted in faith and history. But while the notion of religion has always held a great comfort to many people, at times it can also hold us back. After years of being told that I needed to attend church regularly to reprogrammy life for the better—the time had come for me to make a decision for myself.

    Though I may not have to go to churches each Sunday, that doesn’t mean I can’t seek answers from other places. And no matter which path I choose, I don’t have to fear crossing its boundaries—for perhaps seeking freedom from religion isn’t something foreign, but a matter of spiritual responsibility.

    Though I won't be standing in a crowded chapel or passing around communion wine each week, I'm comforted knowing that I can lie down to rest in the peace and quiet of my own private sanctuary—where I know I'm free to explore and reinvent my relationship with faith.

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