Adult Sunday School has always been an exercise in frustration for me. I realized that this Sunday morning as I listened to a group venture way off-topic and express cliches and sentimentalities that have no real wisdom in them. It's a chronic complaint of mine.
When I was younger and attended SBC churches, it was even more frustrating because combined with the off-the-mark interpretations and missing-the-point applications, I had to deal with the hovering idea of submission to authority, and the submission of women to male leadership. I would bite my lip as leaders made nonsensical statements or took passages completely out of context. Even when I didn't feel constrained by the general gender attitudes, I would ration how often I would speak up in an attempt to correct what was said, which I usually did in non-confrontational ways, phrasing things in terms of "I wonder if maybe so and so meant this."
Nobody likes to be corrected. Nobody likes people who are always correcting other people.
Over the years, I've accepted that roughly 60% of what I hear from pulpits and Bible studies is generally chaff. It's incorrect. It's biased. It's shallow. It has no lasting impact on the speaker or the hearer. It's noise.
You would think that having such a low opinion of Sunday School and sermons would make me run for the hills, and yet I still attend church. I haven't surrendered my hope for a spiritual home.
Considering how wrong I think my fellow believers can be--digressing into Young Earth Creation arguments, falling for Urban Legends as proof for faith, justifying terrible suffering as God's will--it may seem as if I foolishly cling to my personal faith. If the people by which I am surrounded have such low accuracy in these things, then why would I want to associate with them? Surely I can't expect to learn anything from these people.
To be honest, I have had moments in which I felt that way.....but those moments always pass.
My faith is my faith because of what it means to me. I selfishly protect it from the errors I know of. Yet, even now I must acknowledge that I probably possess errors of my own of which I am completely unaware. It would be the height of arrogance to assume that my knowledge of God is complete and whole. If I am willing to allow for God's grace to cover over my own misunderstandings and gaffes, then it would be rank hypocrisy to not extend the same grace to others.
While trying to continue to poke and prod my faith and my understanding of it, there comes the recognition that all of the things I ponder and think about, all the pie-in-the-sky wanderings of my mind, have very little to do with the very basic tenets of Christianity--the reduction of all the Scriptures to loving God with all that I have, and to loving others as I wish to be loved.
I need a lot of loving...a lot of overlooking of my annoying qualities....a lot of grace for my many mistakes and imperfections...a lot of patience.
I put up with the crazy ideas people spout, because I sense that sometimes I am the crazy person spouting ideas.
In searching for spiritual contentment, I find I have to release my urges to always have things just so. I have to let go of the professional critic that speaks inside my head and accept people for where they are in their particular journey with God.
I find that when I set those things aside and focus on the actual people, and not the things that they say, it becomes much easier.