Couch Churches: Confronting Trauma, Friendship, and Tomorrow

Part Three: The Couch

My thoughts drift again to communion, and then to worship, the kind that brings you to your knees and throws your arms in the air without prompting. The kind of worship that leads you to speak in tongues. The kind that makes a fool out of you. The kind of childhood. My thoughts drift to these sacred spaces even though many, beefier theologians, would say they shouldn’t.

I’d say I’m the one who shouldn’t be here.

There are friendships that make sense. You have the same sense of humor, the same background, the same interests. And, there are friendships that don’t. Twice, in one month, I’ve been reminded of the blessing of nonsense.

The first was with two friends on their couch on the third story of their house, early into the next morning. We shouldn’t be friends. We’re decades apart in age, at completely different stages in our lives, and across gender and racial lines. And yet, here we are, discussing theology and pain in between reruns of Will and Grace. What do you make of that?

And then, just two weeks later, I hang up the phone from a two and a half conversation with a girl who lives 2,000 miles away, a girl I was friends with for three or four months two years ago. Like my two friends above, we shouldn’t still be friends. We don’t share a timezone, a nationality, a cultural background, or a history. And yet, when I hang up the phone, my spirit feels as alive as hearing gospel music for the first time. We traversed love, faith, and depression in tones as easily as a couple married fifty years.

That shouldn’t happen. And, yet, it does.

If we believe that church is a place of believers, gathered together to do faith and life together, then these plush couches count as chapels. We break bread together. We talk through our struggles and our joys. We invite God into the space to mediate with us as we discern what path to take.

It’s likely that I’ll never step into a conventional church again whole. Miracles do happen, but it’s unlikely they will (that’s what makes them so cool). But that doesn’t mean that Church will never happen for me again. It just means it looks different. My church is a lot closer to the origins of the building – a few friends gathered together in a house talking it all through. Breaking bread. Laughing.

I’m not saying conventional church won’t have a place in my life, but that role has shifted too. I don’t go now for me, because I need it or the community it offers me. I go, instead, to be faithful. To drink the wine and sing the songs. I go because my God is still willing to meet me there, and it’s important I be willing to meet my God there. I go because it’s a good spiritual practice to do things that make you uncomfortable because God tells you you should.

But my church? My real church? It’s on the third floor of a cubed house. It’s in the video call chatroom. It’s in the milky kahlúa and the dirty diapers of family life. It’s been there this whole time. I just know what to call it now.

Bryce Van Vleet is a psychology undergraduate based in the Pacific Northwest. He is a lover of words, terrible video-game player, and frequent drinker of soda and other sugary drinks. He also writes short stories here and here.

Editor’s notes:

  • This was written 8/31/18. Any reference to time may be distorted due to a delay in posting.
  • Some names and places have been changed. See our disclaimer for more information. All identifying information has been stripped to protect the identities of minors and innocent (or not so innocent) parties.
  • Edits have been made for gendered use of God (Why edit the gendered use of God?)

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