This post is for you, Momma. You are the reason for so much blessing in my life. Your 60th birthday seemed like the perfect time to finally listen to your incessant suggestions that I ought to write down my deeper thoughts more often. So I have been working on posts for this blog to chronicle some thoughts on life: on the sacred, the secular, and everything in between. Maybe, like you would suggest, it’s not so separate as it seems. Maybe it is all just a part of the journey.
I went to church by myself one Sunday not too long ago. It’s a bit of a long story as to why, but suffice to say that we have had enough illness and exhaustion and bad tempers and lame church experiences to last us for a while. That Sunday I needed to go, though, and we both knew it. So Hubs stayed home with the crazies and the croupy while I went off in search of a fresh breath of Sunday morning grace.
It was a long week prior. A long few months. Between regular parenting life, a frustrating foot injury for Hubs, some other health issues, and you know, life, I was thankful just to be in God’s house. One of them, anyway.
As I parked in the parking lot, I contemplated the fact that I have attended church solo maybe three times in my entire life. I grew up in music ministry with my fabulous and faithful parents, where the church felt as much like home to me as did our own cozy dwellings. I remember running in the halls, playing hide and seek in the pews, and always being surrounded by people who knew and loved me well. They fed me, cared for me, and taught me Jesus Loves Me. I was sort of like a preacher’s kid, though I never felt the pressures which are so stereotypical in that role. It was in the church that I later found mentors and close friends, people who would have profound impacts on my spiritual formation. Whether in services or choirs and youth groups or praise teams or many other involvements, the community of believers has always been an integral and welcomed part of my faith journey.
This is also why it has been difficult for me in recent years while we have struggled to find a church home. When we were first married, we had a lovely, imperfect, and passionate church home in Memphis. We grew so much during those five years, with some great community happening, and it’s a place we will probably never recover from- in a good way. In Chicago, there was a single church within walking distance of any similar doctrine to ours, and we found rich teaching, savory relationships, and a church that fit our needs for those two years. Since moving to our new home, we have loved everything about our new community, but we honestly keep feeling like a square peg family surrounded only by round hole churches. It is not because there’s anything wrong with the churches. We have simply struggled to fit, for one reason or another, in each and every place we have tried. This lack of a church home has caused me many feelings as of late: frustration, panic, striving, sadness, and more recently, apathy. That last one probably scared me (and my mom when I told her so on the phone) the most.
I was cognizant of this history and this struggle as I entered the simple church double doors on Sunday, but I didn’t really care. I just wanted to meet Jesus there. And I did find him there, specifically through some brave and warm church members as well as perfectly appropriate music and liturgy. I find it somewhat poetic that the reason I chose this particular church that day is because I have recently befriended the, wait for it, music minister there. This new friend found me and seated me with her own family in the cozy pews, and it was only slightly embarrassing as I wept my way through the music next to my friend’s mother-in-law. Yet there was something comfortable and warm in that sanctuary, finished with vaulted wooden ceilings and a simple, exalted cross above the altar. Kudos to the church members who welcomed me so warmly, and hats off to you if you have to fly solo to church some/most/all of the time. It was no small feat of bravery even for an avowed extrovert like myself.
If this blog is to be about how Jesus inhabits even the messiest parts of my life, then the sermon on my February church visit certainly fit the theme. The sermon was, appropriately, about how God descends into our brokenness. Based on the Genesis account of Jacob fooling Isaac and cheating Esau out of his blessing, it is a story that wreaks of brokenness and messiness and so much unfortunate and… Normal human behavior. But it’s no secret that God is inexplicably attracted to his people, filth and all. Jesus dined with the worst of society and was berated for associating freely with sinners and prostitutes. He has always had such a knack for meeting people right where they are, right in the middle of the mess. The sermon was followed by a beautiful and simple song by All Sons and Daughters, called Brokenness Aside:
Will your grace run out
If I let you down
‘Cause all I know
Is how to run
‘Cause I am a sinner
If it’s not one thing it’s another
Caught up in words
Tangled in lies
But You are a Savior
And You take brokenness aside
And make it beautiful
So then there’s me, and maybe you, too. I sometimes hide it well, but my life is full of various messes. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. I’m figuring that maybe if I invite Jesus into my daily activities, the ones that seem mundane or secular or unholy, I’m guessing that He will delight to meet me here. He will make it beautiful somehow. The mess of that stressful week, the frustration of our haphazard church hunt, the reality of my constant sin and parenting struggles, the tendency towards apathy– these issues don’t bother my Jesus. Even if he doesn’t fix the problems right away, or ever, at least I can imagine him lounging with me at my sticky table with my loud children, laughing with peace and ease, and reminding me gently, “I am with you always.” Even now. Even when it feels unholy. In the sacred and the secular and everything in between.
What about you? Do you find it hard to go to a new church by yourself? Do you find it difficult to welcome visitors into your home church?