“Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
On the outside looking in, we had all of the typical “trademarks” of a Christian family: our belief in Christ; family devotions; prayer; incorporation of our faith into our daily life, but we were lacking regular church attendance. This wasn’t something that we openly shared. We would see friends in passing, and some would ask where we were attending. We would usually tell them we were in between churches. Of course, we would never go into detail because it was personal. Until now. In order to understand fully, I need to take you back about fifteen years…
It’s crazy to think, but about 15 years ago my husband Billy and I started trying to have a family. We never could have dreamed what a journey we would embark upon. During the 10 years of “trying”, we went through multiple fertility treatments and two losses. All the while watching friends and family add to their families. While attending church, people always asked us when we were going to have children. A tough one for us to answer especially when asked by acquaintances. We never knew how much to share, and our answer usually varied depending on how strong we felt at that time. Even now I could probably make a list of the all the “hard to digest” comments well-meaning people would say to us. The worst being: “Everything happens for a reason.”
(On a side note, check out this article entitled “Dear Christians, Stop Saying “Everything Happens for a Reason.” It has really helped me make sense of some of the struggles that I have had in my life.
Worship music was especially difficult to sit through in church.
“Blessed be your name, on the road marked in suffering though there’s pain in the offering, blessed be your name…” (Especially after the loss of two early pregnancies.)
Frankly, it was also difficult to sit through sermons that reminded us of God’s love when we were hurting so deeply, and feeling forgotten. In church, I would get so emotional, and I would feel that people were studying my face as if it were a train wreck. My ugly cry is seriously bad- no joke! Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t a mess all the time. There were times that I felt God’s comfort, and presence, but it was definitely a roller coaster.
When we stopped attending, we weren’t “plugged in” enough for people to notice we weren’t going to church, so no one reached out to us to say “Hey, we missed you last Sunday.” I’m not sure if that would have made a difference if they had though. We began watching Charles Stanley sermons (of In Touch ministries). One of his sermons about God’s purpose for our lives had a HUGE impact on our hearts, and ultimately lead us to Liam. Thank God for solid Christian pastors who use different mediums such as television to minister to hurting hearts!
Even after Liam’s birth until recently, we didn’t attend church regularly. I had lots of anxiety about him getting sick, and nurseries and Sunday school classrooms don’t tend to be the most hygienic. I started to relax a bit once he began attending preschool and kindergarten, realizing that getting sick is part of strengthening his immune system and building resistance. I also began accepting that there are some things that are out of my control.
Upon the closing of Liam’s Christian school in May, Billy and I discussed the impact it would have on Liam not to have our Christian faith reinforced at the (public) school he would attend. He loved chapel! We agreed that we were tired of just talking about going back to church, and we needed to actually DO it. We reviewed the Rolodex of churches we had attended in previous years, and we were in the process of trying to decide where we would go back to, when a friend mentioned to me that they had been attending a certain church for the past couple of months. They invited us to join them. Honestly, it was the first time that I felt like I was “home” at a church in YEARS; really since the church in which I grew up. We have been attending there pretty regularly for the past couple months, and we are so thankful to our friends for inviting us. I actually want to attend church now, and I no longer have anxiety about attending. That is truly a gift!
If you have read this far, there are a few things I hope you can glean. First, when you know in your heart that you need to make a change, don’t put it off! We aren’t promised tomorrow! You will be happier making the change, and it will impact those close to you—all for the good! Next, if you haven’t been to a church in years, for whatever the reason, consider getting “back in the saddle again!” Yes, we can be Christians without attending church, but there’s something special about worshiping with fellow Christians. No church is perfect because it’s comprised of imperfect people. Pray and search for a church that you and your family can feel a connection. Lastly, if you are in considering inviting someone to your church, please think of your approach. Build connections with people, and then ask them to attend church. Don’t just message people out of the blue and invite them to go to church if you haven’t talked to them in years. This did happen to us multiple times. Finessing in most situations is best…
Please let us know if this resonated with you in the slightest! Next week’s blog post will focus on changes Billy and I have made for our marriage!