I love my church. I really LOVE my church.
I’ve been attending the same church for…a long time. Since I was five. But I won’t tell you exactly how long ’cause then you’d know that I’m no spring chicken anymore.
I digress. I love my church. I have seen it evolve and change and grow. It is not the place it was 20 years ago. It is not the place it was 10 years ago. It is alive, and growing, and changing and striving. I have left this church for far-off places, and mourned the separation. I’ve returned, and even our current home purchase was made with vicinity to this church in mind.
I love that my children are growing up in the same church, and in some cases, are being ministered to by the same people. I love that they love it here, too. I love that they are forming relationships with adults whom they trust.. Someday, for a time, my children may quit speaking to me. If that happens, I know that there are other wise men and women that (I hope) they will speak to in my place. And they’ll be ok.
Because it worked for me. There was a time, a long time ago, when I quit speaking to my parents. But there were others whom I trusted that I dd speak to, and they helped me see that my parents were not evil dictators after all.
I love my church because there are people there who have known me since I was knee-high to a tadpole. Who have walked with me through middle school – ugh – and high school, and college. Who held my hand when I broke up with boyfriends, took me out to lunch when I was home from college, and who brought me – and my family – food when we were sick. Or having babies. Or surgery. Or mourning. They have loved me when I wasn’t very lovable. When I was geeky and awkward and 12.
Someday, my kids will be geeky and awkward and 12 and I want them to feel loved like that – not just by me.
There is continuity there. And there is safety in that. But it is not a safe place – it is a place where I am continually challenged and asked to stretch outside my comfort zone.
There is family there, and security.
Like any family, there have been problems. Churches, as the unchurched love to point out, are full of hypocrites. Yes, indeedy, and I am one of them. Just like hospitals are full of sick people. We’re all just trying to get well. Ain’t nobody in there got it all figured out. We’re all just trying to get well. Be more, do more, live more.
Be more like Him. And less like us.
I watch people orbit around the outside of this church community, watching us, watching us love and connect with one another, and I wonder what they think with their arms pushed out in front, lest we get too close. Do they want to come in? Are they afraid of us, or afraid of being a part of us? Are they afraid of who we might ask them to become? Or do they just not want to become anything, so they stay where they are, on the outside, looking in. Curious.
Come on in, the water’s fine, friends. You’ll like us. I promise. We’re nice. We’re friendly. We won’t judge you.
I don’t feel like my time at church is a sacrifice out of free-time. It’s what we do. While I’m not spending time with my kids during that 3 hour period every Sunday, my kids are having a spectacular time. They are doing exciting things and learning that there is a Friend who sticks closer than a brother, and they are learning it from people they can trust.
The saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child, well, this is our village. There are people there offering things beyond what a parent can offer. They are expanding their minds, and challenging them, and doing it not because they HAVE to. But because they LOVE to.
They actually, really, truly love my children. Why would I ever want to deny them that? The love of others. The kinship of other kids who are being raised with the same motives, ideals and aspirations?
To become more like Him. And less like us.
Rick and Stanley taught my high school class on Sunday mornings. Stanley’s son, now an adult, just went through a significant crisis in his life, and guess what? Now my husband and I are ministering to him. He’s back at home, in the arms of his family, and he is safe. He knows he can trust us with his heart, because he’s known us – literally – all his life.
There is something so precious in that continuity.
I don’t go to church to worship God. I can do that anywhere. I ought to do that everywhere. I go to church because it is my family there, and they love me, and they challenge me, and they aren’t satisfied with me the way I am. They push me, gently, lovingly, to be more.
More like Him. Less like me.
I love my church.
Do you love yours?
Addendum: Here’s a great video about church that describes exactly how it is at my church. Socks optional, grace required, and it’s ok to not be ok.