I hate meeting new people. There, I said it. Meeting people terrifies me. Networking is my husband’s idea of a good time; the very mention of it gives me a headache! He actually signs up for this stuff, gets all giddy at the opportunity to meet-n-greet. (Shudder) Sometimes, he takes me along to meet his connections and friends. Just the idea of going is usually enough to start me whining, complaining (loudly), and bickering (louder). It’s rather embarrassing, really, the level of discord I create when my inner self is screaming “I don’t wanna go!” Grow up, Leslie.
Ironically, I actually love getting to know people. I thrive on finding connections and building relationships. It just takes me a while. But when I do, watch out! If I make a friend at any given event, I can chat with that one person – and not have to meet anyone else, hooray! – all evening. I’m looking for Real. Someone who is willing to set aside their plastic networking smile, squint their eyes just so, and crack the door to their soul, where Real lives.
One of my favorite rooms in a person’s Real self is the space they reserve for church. In most of us, church usually isn’t front and center. More like a sunroom, a pretty little room tucked in the back. Guests don’t get to see it upon arrival, but only after visiting other spaces: the family room, the homey kitchen, perhaps even the messy playroom. Then they see Church. What a delightful addition to an already beautiful space.
Where the fun lies isn’t just in discovering we both attend church, and where, and how long. Real gets real when we open the cabinet and display WHY we go to church. No, I don’t actually ask that of anyone. Honestly, I’ve not really asked it of myself much, until a recent hiatus from my own church left me feeling down, isolated, and without direction. Several weeks passed before I recognized my feelings and, subsequently, the source. To be honest, I rather enjoyed those first few weekends of productivity and long, luxurious mornings with my family. But as I began longing to return to our Sunday morning routine, I examined my motivation for attending church.
God: The most obvious. If I am going to follow His commands, I cannot pick and choose which I will follow. I will share His message of love, I will raise my children to know and respect Him, I will offer Him my gifts, I will keep His day holy by reserving time for worship.
Community: Christ said where two or more are gathered in His name, He would be present with us. He prayed for all future believers, that we would be unified in His name. In other words, God gave us to each other. Time and again, I am blessed and encouraged after spending time in fellowship with other believers.
Free childcare: Nursery, Sunday School, other adults guiding our children to think about others, to be quiet and respectful, to love one another. My oldest daughter cried when children’s choir ended for the year. “It’s my favorite activity all week,” she lamented. Not because she socializes and eats dinner with her friends, but because she loves singing about God. Her soul has found freedom and joy in learning words to praise her creator. I pray our children always have such a strong desire to be embraced by the church.
Quiet: If we allow it, a peaceful sanctuary can be just that to our bodies, our souls. Like Jesus calming the storm, His house can quiet the everpresent noises of our lives and calm even the busiest hamster-on-the-wheel. Sometimes, I sit in the pew, look at the pastel-colored windows, and simply breathe in His presence. It is in that space He restores my soul.
Family: For better or worse, we are assigned our biological families. We have a little more choice in our church family, but the members often serve similar roles, for better or worse. And, like with our relations, we can choose to grow in love despite our imperfections. We can also bless one another abundantly in that love. The ties that bind us together are strengthened when a fellow church member voluntarily steps into a supportive role typically reserved for related-family. A meal when we are ill, a ride when we cannot drive, a baby shower when no family lives close, a simple hug when our mother is not near. Family cannot be replaced, but the holes can be filled to overflowing by the love of a church family.
Service: I love to be needed; I need it. To that end, the world has needs! One of Christ’s last commands while He walked the earth was to go out into all the world, sharing His love. No simple task for an individual. But standing side by side with our church family, we are able to further His kingdom here on earth. Make meals for the homeless, teach the children, provide supplies for the needy, build homes for orphans. What blessing we receive when we give of ourselves to bless others!
So, why do I go to church? Sure, my husband gets to meet new people and I get to build relationships. But that isn’t what gets us out the door Sunday morning or to committee meetings and events throughout the week. Initially, my husband and I wanted to be with God, to walk with Him in our lives and our marriage. We sought a place of quiet refuge from our busy lives. We had children who we chose to raise in the Christian faith. We became part of a family who never lets us go. We started to serve and found joy came from the work of it. We discovered that the more we learned of God, the more real He became in our lives. The more we gave of ourselves, the more freedom we had to truly live. The more we spoke of His love, the more we loved all of those around us.
Church. That small room kept off to the side of our Real, visiting only on Sundays, at best. Perhaps it’s time to renovate, to rearrange it, or even move it to the front room of our Real selves.