Growing up, my family celebrated Valentine’s Day on a grander scale than just romantic love. The girls gave cards and candy to the boys and vice versa–from grandparents to cousins and everyone in between. It was never anything grand, but just a token of the love we had for one another. I’ve embraced that mentality across the board as I try to celebrate all the different loves I have in life. I love my husband, my children, my family, my friends, and my cats…all in different ways of course. I love time in nature–from a long walk along the ocean to a wandering hike through the forest. Most importantly, I love God for all these things that He’s blessed me with.
One of the loves that I’m particularly thankful for in this season of life is love for my church. Those who know me best know that I don’t say that flippantly. I’ve always felt church is important, but it’s been a long time since I could really say that I love my church. I’ve been on a church journey (teasingly called church shopping by my family) for several years now and been happy with our current spot, but it was really just this past month that I truly felt the love.
In the Beginning
We had a church home that I loved for many years and felt like my children and I spiritually grew up there. But a day came when several programs we were involved in were simultaneously cancelled, seemingly without much consideration of those who were pouring their hearts and time into the programs. Well, like any relationship gone south, it was hard to recover and feel like it was still a church home…so the journey began.
Wandering the Desert
We visited lots of churches and quickly grew tired of the search. So, we settled on a place that seemed like a good possibility for that new home. At first I didn’t get involved (beyond attending) as I was leery of putting my heart and soul in again. Of course, there’s always a push (and need) for volunteers, so I ended up helping make the Lord’s Supper bread each month. (I still think this is one of the coolest things this church did, praying over the bread as we made it and experiencing the Lord’s Supper each week.) However, it wasn’t long before my kids started complaining that while church was fun, they weren’t learning anything. So, I volunteered to work in the kids area to see what was happening. Sure enough, despite the fact that a sheet of paper came home each week explaining what the kids learned, college kids were paid to lead the rooms and did nothing but talk to one another while the kids played. I brought my concern to the director and suggested that we should either stop sending the papers home or start teaching the lessons. No kidding–she informed me that there were lots of other churches around if I didn’t like it there. And we were back on the church hunt…
After more of the tiring church visits, we ended up at a nearby church where several of our friends had landed from our original church home. I purposely stayed away from volunteering, but ironically ended up getting a job at the church preschool. That ended up being the longest year of my life. The director, let’s just say, didn’t come across as a good Christian woman and ran that preschool with some fairly despicable (and probably illegal) practices. Most of the preschool workers had stopped attending church there because the director was also in charge of Sunday’s children’s programming. The one person who had the guts to go to the pastor about the situation was then slandered and fired. Needless to say that I quickly moved on from this church.
My Piece of Promised Land
Begrudgingly, we entered the church journey once more. When we arrived at our new church home, I immediately felt like it was our new church family. However, I let my experiences from the past hold me at bay…simply attending each Sunday. However, it wasn’t long before my spirit answered the volunteer call, and we all became involved in the church. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my heart was still guarded–waiting for what might go wrong this time. But in just the last month, events unfolded where I realized my input was actually desired and valued. I suddenly discovered that I was home, where I am part of something and not just a number or a slot in the volunteer schedule. I can’t even describe the joy that tumbled out of me and the release of emotions from years of pent up sadness. Thankfully, I can look back with clarity and see the lessons learned from my journey. Hopefully my children have learned some positive lessons about not settling for mediocrity, about persevering through difficult times, and about answered prayers. While I know my church and its people are far from perfect, I love that they’re constantly seeking to be closer to God. And on top of all that, I’m overjoyed to confidently say that I love my church. I pray that anyone out there on a similar journey can hold on tight and enjoy the ride–and ultimately find the place that God has for you.