And God Met Me There
“Where are you all attending church now?” a friend asked when we ran into one another at a local convenience mart.
“We’re not going anywhere,” I replied, dreading the scorn I feared would follow (it did!).
That was several years ago.
It was true that after decades of dedicated church attendance–and service even, our family had dropped out of church.
It was a decision I never dreamed I’d make.
I’ve loved the congregations I’ve had the honor of being part of. I thoroughly enjoyed the work of teaching, singing, leading, and serving.
And I’ve definitely benefited from some good teaching along the way.
Yet I left.
I didn’t walk away from God or my faith . . . but from my connection to local congregations.
And I wasn’t ready return.
It’s not that I planned to never be involved with a church again; that time just hadn’t come.
What caused me to walk away from this holy habit? I actually hope you’re curious about that, because I believe it’s important. It wasn’t over budget differences or worship styles; nor was it any doctrinal issue. It was that my family just no longer belonged.
The honest truth is, as Joe became sicker, the church doors just seemed to close tighter. I don’t say that with any malice–actually, I believe God allowed things to work out just the way they did. Yes . . . I believe He allowed the very circumstances that drove me away.
As surprised as I was to see myself walk away from the habit of church, I was even more flummoxed recently when a new friend invited me to her church . . . and after a few weeks, I found myself entertaining her invitation.
I started by scouting out a few podcasts and sneaking into a handful of Wednesday night Bible studies. Wanting more, I actually braved a Sunday morning visit last week. I say braved because, to be honest, I had real live nightmares about going. After all, wouldn’t it only remind me of that unwanted feeling of not belonging? Wouldn’t I find some of the traditional church practices offensive after all this time?
However, my weary spirit continues to look for God. And all of a sudden, the idea of sitting in a sanctuary–however uncomfortable my flesh may feel–doesn’t seem so foreign.
The visit last Sunday wasn’t all that spectacular. Don’t get me wrong, the pastor of this particular church is up there, in terms of teaching anointing. But the service lacked something for me.
Strangely enough, though underwhelmed, I wasn’t discouraged.
So this morning I returned to the scene of my underwhelming, determined and hungry.
And you know what? God was waiting for me there.
The sermon was good; my emotions–the fear of not belonging–were comforted by the reminder that there isn’t a church I could visit that I haven’t prayed for and coveted much in the Spirit for.
But! The real gift today, was that my spirit was refreshed by God’s presence. In a church, no less!
Oh, I’ve encountered God in many places in the past ten-plus years since my son’s name appeared on the marquee sign of that local and beloved church. Really, it’s almost like I’ve encountered Him everywhere BUT in a church! Yet, today, some two-thousand years since Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, He entered into my humble worship in Nashville, Tennessee.
I’m so happy He did, because He is what my heart desires.
Glory, glory! I went to church today. And God met me there.