I was reminded of that today when blogger John Pavlovitz posted an article, For Those Of Us Needing A Detox From Religion, talking about how draining church involvement can be, and basically saying it is okay to take a break.
Over time you can gradually develop a soul sickness and be completely unaware of it, until one day you turn around and faith just feels… toxic. The reasons aren’t necessarily clear, but you realize that the spiritual pursuits that once gave you life now seem empty and burdensome. ...
If you believe you need a detox from religion my friend, take it. If you’re wrong you’ll be able to course correct without fear. This is the very essence of Grace.Pavlovitz is writing into a very different context from here in sunny Caversham (just at the moment it really is sunny!), but I think that before withdrawing from church life it might be an idea to try just rebalancing that life.
In Caversham, at least, churches will try to take all your time and energy: there is always more 'needs' to be done and there are never enough people to do it. So maybe the first step is to take responsibility for our own time and effort: stick to things where we add most value. It's a bit like a budget, but of time and energy ... and just like a budget, leave some slack for the unexpected. And for the occasional treat!
But it's not just about things being important. In many/most churches it is seen as good to read your Bible and spend time with God working through what it is saying to you and those around you today. It is also good to spend time with those who are unwell and need a friendly word. And it is good to be willing to share your experience of faith with those who are not churchgoers.
All of these things matter and all are well worth doing. But is there one of them which really gets you out of bed in the morning, which really gives your soul a buzz? It may be hard work, sometimes sad or discouraging, but still it's what gives you a sense of purpose, achievement or meaning: a sense that "this is what the Kingdom's about!".
If there is something which nourishes you like that then don't neglect it. Don't let all the other stuff, however important, get in the way of what is - to you - essential. Keep a balance between what you do because it needs doing and you can do it, and what you do because it helps you be who you are.
The examples I gave above are churchy ones, but it doesn't have to be so. Playing with your kids, walking in the wild places, going to the cinema with your spouse, solving the problems of the world with a few good friends over a couple of beers. God is present in all of these, whether you see him or not.
There are real benefits to following Jesus in company, so dropping out may make things harder rather than easier. This is not to say it should never be done, just don't do so lightly.
But much more than that, however you feel about churches and church life - even if you would never dream of darkening the door of any religious building - do remember to feed your soul. It'll thank you for it.