Get Plugged In


Get Plugged In: To enter into the life of a church by joining one of the programs it offers or attending an activity that it promotes.

Here is what I remember about depression: it’s like being pulled under the deep water. Everything around you is muffled, the details obscured. You are aware of a vague kind of light somewhere above the surface, but you can’t reach it no matter how hard you swim.

You’re tired a lot. You meet new people, and you grasp at your collection of words and greetings and charming one-liners, but you come up empty every time. You feel shadowy, a sort of fragment of yourself.

You are broken. You are shards, jagged and cruel in your sadness. You are desperate for love and unable to receive it all at once.

It’s not something you can slap a little church on. You can’t just “plug” your tired soul into the electric current of this place and be filled with power. It’s not a matter of joining a Bible study or volunteering with the Jr. High Youth Group or singing in the worship band. Plugged in. It’s not really that simple.

There is a woman sitting at the end of the aisle on Sunday morning when I slip into church. Andrew is out of town for the weekend, and I’ve somehow managed to get both kids deposited into their classes by myself. I am focused on getting seated, on not spilling my coffee. I don’t even notice her until I sit down and take a breath.

At communion, she does not get up, but shifts awkwardly out of the way to let us pass. During the worship time that follows, she takes a Kleenex out of her bag and dabs at her eyes. She studies the carpet. I want to say something, but I am too many chairs away. I want to touch her arm, but I cannot reach her.

The pastor is speaking, and the church bulletin is filled with programs and possibilities, but we are not this. We are, first and foremost, people. We need to train our eyes to see each other, to let the love of Christ move through us as we take each other by the hand.

Not join or plug in or get connected. Just come. Come as you are.

The woman at the end of the aisle leaves early. She goes in the small space between the sermon’s end and the first chords of the last song. Gone. She will not stop at the Information Desk to see about getting plugged in to a small group, the women’s Bible study, the clothing ministry.

She will hurry toward the glass doors, toward the parking lot. She will disappear into the day.

20 thoughts on “Get Plugged In

  1. This might be one of my least favorite idioms we use in evangelicaldom. While “plugging in” isn’t necessarily bad, isn’t it the opposite of what the church should be offering? Shouldn’t the church be the one reaching out, wrapping love around people, and drawing them into the warm embrace of community?

    1. That’s what I think too. It seems like sometimes churches (myself included) use programs as an excuse not to, you know, BE the church. “If they were really interested, there’s lots of ways for them to meet people…” instead of being the one to notice, to sit next to someone, to listen.

    2. I agree. I hate the word “plugged in.” It can mean so many things, but more often than not it means a step beyond just attending a small group. It often entails serving “in” the church. That was what grated on me. I felt like a church would see me and immediately start thinking of ways to put me to work…. i.e. get plugged in. The first two years of my blog were spent ranting about stuff like this.

  2. What a wonderful piece. I may use this in the counseling class I teach. It reminds me of an extraordinary book by Kathryn Green-McCreight, “Darkness Is My Only Companion.” She has three degrees from Yale and is in the ministry, but has dealth with severe depression and bipolar disorder. Her explanations and reflections as a Christian are so helpful, and echos what you have said here.

  3. “Plugging in” is actually a well-known concept in the addiction community, ironically. It’s what an addict does with his substance: “…checks out, plugs in, or both…”
    And we are religion addicts plugging in. “Church” addicts checking out of real relationship and plugging in to distractions of a noble nature that sanitize our brokenness sufficiently for the avoidance of intimacy and true union with another.
    Humans doing instead of human beings.

  4. Pingback: Communion |
  5. Oh, Addie. This…brings me to tears.

    Countless times I have been that woman. And it’s not that no one ever noticed, sat with me, listened–because some did. There were times when I was–I would’ve thought–noticeably struggling and…nothing. If anyone noticed, I guess they thought I’d rather be left alone (why do people think that?!?), they weren’t capable of handling it, or they just plain didn’t *want* to be sucked into my sadness. And even most of the ones who did listen…it would be that one time, and no real relationship would form, which is what I felt I needed or at least wanted the most. I think my level of disillusionment is such that many Christians don’t know what to do with it. Some of course start in with the pat answers, but I am so familiar with them they don’t even have to get one halfway out before I am “oh please”-ing it, at least in my head. My disillusionment is such, in fact, that I am no longer attending church of any kind–not even small group, which I kept up for a few years after I quit services. And that is more about my “issues with God” than it is about any of those people. :sigh:

    1. I’ve been there, girl. I think that in general people are uncomfortable with sadness and pain and messiness. Both in the Christian world and outside of it too. I think it reminds us all of how fragile we are, of how little we can actually do for one another.

      My prayer for myself (and for the church) is that I would learn to be present in other people’s pain, not because I have anything to offer, but because God so often touches us through each other.

  6. After our latest move I was determined to get really ‘plugged in’ to a church. To do all the work so that when I needed the support it would be there, because maybe the reason it hadn’t been in the past was because I hadn’t done enough or gotten involved enough. Now, a year later, I have a two month old, severe post-partum depression, and I am beginning to realize that no amount of ‘plugging in’ will give me the community and support I crave in the midst of this darkness.

    1. I’m so sorry you’re going through this Ruth. I’ve been there…not with post-partum, but with regular old garden-variety depression…and it makes it so hard to have the energy keep trying to plug in. Praying for some grace of friendship and community for you friend. xoxo

    2. I was rejected by church just when I needed them most. I even tried to bluntly reach out to them. I am sorry for what you are going through, and it is incredibly painful. But know that God is there, even when people are not.

      Try to simply read the Bible and pray, “casting all your cares upon Him, because He loves you” (1 Peter 5:7).

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