I went to church for the first time in a month last Sunday (I get to go today too! Woot! Woot!). Pretty much the moment after the announcements were done at the very beginning of the service, and we we closed our eyes to pray, I started sobbing, (thankfully)quietly, but quite uncontrollably.
I was home.
And it felt great.
As soon as I started getting myself together, stopped the water works. Then it happened.
I heard the congregation behind me start singing 10,000 Reasons. It’s an awesome song in itself, but lately I’ve been listening it in the car on the way to the baby’s doctor appointments or during anxiety attacks. To hear it in my church, sung by so many people who I love and who have supported us, and it sounded amazing. It was a powerful feeling. I felt the strength behind so many voices coming together. Overwhelming to say the least.
And so then came more tears. I was quite the ball of water works that morning. I learned long ago not to wear mascara to my church, because you never know when *tears*, *tears*, and more *tears*.
But it was because my church is my home.
I don’t say that because as a Christian it’s supposed to be or because my husband is on staff. Trust me, obligation does not a church home make.
It’s because for me it’s a true sanctuary. There is God, good teachings, best friends, and TWO Starbucks across the street. More times than I can count I confided in a random church friend about what I am struggling with that day, and finding out that they were just what I needed. It’s where I can go let out my emotions, be honest about myself and what I am going through, and people still manage to love me. It’s where I can be strengthened during tough times in different ways by a diverse group of people, I probably wouldn’t otherwise know. It’s where the person sitting behind me, is also the person I talk to almost daily on Facebook or will go out to lunch with after service.
Not to mention, we have a lot of fun. Not like let’s name all the apostles for candy fun like most people expect, but like girls movie night on the big screen watching Baby Mama or being roped into playing hacky sack in the parking lot, type fun.
These are my best friends. My loves. My leaders in life and spirit. My family. They are also the ones who can frustrate me, make me angry, hurt my feelings and make me cry. It’s not always easy, but after five years of being devoted to this place and these people, it’s worth every second.
I understand that not every church is like that. Not everyone feels that connected, or at home. There are lots of reasons for that, and many do not have to do with the person themselves. But I would like to offer one observation: To make a family is an investment.
When it comes to your blood family, you are stuck with them. So even though you fight with someone one year, you are probably going to still see them at Christmas the next. Siblings who used to fight, are best friends when they get older. You don’t always like everything crazy Uncle Sue says or agree with your grandma’s views, but you still love them. You still give them a hug when you see them, and tell them about your life. You still invest in them. You put in the time and the energy. You send that email, drive 5 hours for a weekend reunion, (if your not me) you make a phone call to check in, and so on.
When you have a spouse you spend time with them. Listen to their day (or you should), hold them when they are upset, give up your favorite pillow or candy bar for them, and help them achieve their goals. You invest. Same goes for your kids, your best friend, and maybe even your neighbor.
Building a church family is the same way. It takes time. It takes you going out of your comfort zone to reach people. You have to talk with people you may not otherwise, listen to other people’s problems, go to coffee with people you barely know, and put in the time and energy. You need to be encouraging, patient, loving and most of all forgiving.
For some reason people think that people at church should be perfect. We put expectations on them that we wouldn’t anyone else. You wouldn’t expect to have a perfectly happy relationship all the time with everyone at your work, right? Or in your blood family? So why would we ever expect this of the people we go to church with?
Church families disagree, and maybe argue. They make mistakes, have bad days, say things they regret, and sometimes people are just not nice. Does that mean you shouldn’t go to church? No. Does that mean you don’t need to forgive them and move on? No.
One of the key pillars to being a follower of Jesus is love and forgiveness. And guess what? Investing in a family, whether biological or not, takes the same thing.
I have not been perfect. I have been bitter, rude, anti-social, and flat out hated having to go to church. But, oh my goodness, it is worth every second. Not just because I still can meet God in that building, and still learn from the messages, but half of what makes church a church is the people. It’s being with them, learning from them, teaching them, holding each other up, and laughing until you cry together. It’s your church family that can turn just a church with a great message, to a home.
I’ve missed them. I’ve missed being in my home.
My husband and I switch off staying home with the baby. And I usually take Wednesday Bible study, and him Sunday service. But it’s not enough.
I listen to sermons at home. Sing Christian worship songs at the top of my lungs in the car (much to my daughters dismay). Even act like I am a volunteer in children’s ministry coming up with Jesus-learning activities for my daughter when she has to miss out too. I’ll see the occasionally friend for coffee once every couple of weeks. But it’s not the same as going home two days a week, not only hearing a message that helps you grow, but hugging your best friends and making new ones (although it takes a while for me to gain the courage to be that social), and celebrating or crying about your day with them.
So a question for you, my awesome readers: If you are Christian, do you have a church family? What has been your experience?