These are very "raw" thoughts and somewhat abstract, so please bear with me or scroll on by ...
I've never tried to explain anything like this before, except to a very few people and then in person. So if you are offended, then I did not intend it, except possibly by awkwardness of my wording. If this is just totally alien to you or makes you want to type harsh words, then just move on down to the next thread.
Everyone has their own feelings about the Church and their relationship with it, and I'm not claiming anyone's to be inferior. That said, I do wonder if there are certain correlations between behavior I've noticed on the outside, and the way people internally feel about their relationship to the Church.
The Church is God's gift to us, His sheep. We sheep are entrusted to the Church, but the Church does not own us. The Church manages the Shepherds. And when sheep stray, it is the purpose of the Shepherd to retrieve it, even though it means straying outside the property, not to yell at it over the fence insisting it come back or be lost forever.
The purpose of the Church is to feed Jesus's sheep. At least that what Jesus told Peter to do as a response to his love for Jesus.
The Church shows us the Way, Truth, and Light that Jesus is.
But I don't see her as my "ruler" or "commander" like so many seem to see.
The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Without a Church, there would still be sheep. Lost sheep, but sheep. But without sheep, there can be and there would be no need for, a Church. The Church ("sabbath") IMO is to help man, not to give him another worldly authority to obey (as in man being made for the sabbath).
The reason I bring this up, is that I get the feeling that being hard-core obedient and defensive of the Church (not exactly turning the other cheek in His name) can have an unintended side effect of measuring ourselves against the "yardstick" of Church teachings as an indicator of our own goodness, and consider that as how well we're doing with God. In fact, the true test of prayer's effectiveness is not how one feels during the prayer itself, but how much improvement do we have in our relationships with other people when on the outside. Just like the value of going to Mass is how well we go and serve others in the Lord.
Sure, the Church gives us examination of conscience and that's useful, but when complying with Church becomes the goal in and of itself, instead of looking at the Church as a path to holiness beyond herself, then a potential for idolatry exists. Because then we see the Church as pointing to herself rather than God.
I first thought of some of this when I was visiting another church and the pastor said, "you people are always trying to get on my good side. It doesn't matter what I think of you; you can fool me easily enough. What matters is your relationship with God."
Does this make sense to anyone other than me? I guess I'll know, if nobody replies. ;)