Monday, February 17, 2014

Why Going to Church Matters, Especially When You Really, REALLY Want to Stay Home!

Pure and simple, I can be stubborn. No, not just a little stubborn, really stubborn.
There are times I want my way. I don't want to have to adhere  to someone else's
schedule or wants or ideas. I want to make my own structure, set my own limits,
make my own timing.

Truth be told, I think my being stubborn has gotten in the way of some of my relationships. Okay, probably more than some. If needing to be right qualifies as being stubborn, then maybe quite a few

It has certainly gotten in the way of my relationship with God.

Let me explain.

My week is busy, more truthfully very busy, packed, full of deadlines and schedules over-brimming.
I do the scheduling.  I jam pack that baby almost every week. For years I have had two jobs.
College Professor and owner of a Communication Consulting Company. I love doing both.
I am passionate about both. I want to serve people and help them live their best life. Add to that time with my beloved husband, adult children and grandchildren, and the schedule almost looks undoable.
It's also a habit to do so much and arrive at Friday sort of gasping for air.

When Saturday morning comes, and there is no schedule, I am overjoyed!
I cannot contain my smiles,relief and exuberance for life. I am grateful for Everything. Every cup of coffee, walk outdoors, every moment when there is time to breathe. I putter around our home smiling and singing. Or I turn gospel music up loud and feel my spirit soar with each high note praising God Almighty. I tell my beloved husband, Bert, that Saturday is my favorite day. I don't just tell him once, I tell him almost every time he turns around. I look like a kid who just got their first puppy.

And then when I wake up on Sunday morning, I can feel the tension of resentment start to set in.
I feel conflicted. I want to feel like I did Saturday morning, but there is one major obstacle.

Church. Going to Church.

Now what you may know, or not know, is that we attend a small Church which is primarily African-American. In the African-American community, going to Church is a several hour process. The actual service can take 2 hours. Easily. My husband sings in the choir, so he goes early. I go to Sunday school before Church so I am there early as well.

So the whole process takes most of a morning and even into the early afternoon.

We often go with our adopted Granddaughter from Ethiopia, and she is pure JOY, so that helps get me going. And the congregation is FILLED with some of the most amazing, warm and supportive people I have ever met. They are genuine and a breath of fresh air to my soul.

Yet if I'm honest, the internal process, the grumblings and twistings of  "I'll go, I don't want to go", go on in my head and heart.

Now understand, I would easily give three hours to a coffee date with my husband or daughters. I would have no resentment, no looking at my watch, no wishing it was over and I didn't have to go.
I would be ecstatic at the chance to spend time with them and get to know them better. I would participate with an open mind and open heart.

How ironic that I would be so stubborn about giving God time to worship Him and know Him better.
It's also ironic that once at I'm at God's house, and soaking up the hugs of fellow believers and travelers in my journey with Jesus, when I hear I hear that first Gospel song, when I hear that first prayer, "Oh Lord, you woke us up this morning and You didn't have to. We thank you. Lord."...once I set aside my stubborn will... I am all in! I love being at church.

While I love to know more about the Lord through the writings of Pastors like Rick Warren, reading my Bible and my book Jesus Calling, and praying every morning over my first cup of coffee...
nothing, and I mean NOTHING, changes my heart like worshiping, praising and learning about God in the fellowship of believers. I think God must chuckle sometimes, and I do believe that God has a sense of humor, when He hears my inner grumblings , sees my stubborness, and then sees my eventual relief.

By worshiping God, and going to church, I am right where I belong.

My inner self can act like a stubborn toddler, fighting doing what is the right thing to do, yet when I finally give in and relinquish my own "I want to do what I want" self, I am at peace.

What I know for sure is that if the Jesus I Know and Love and Serve is the center of my life, which He is, then He deserves my undivided attention. Certainly at Church on Sunday. He deserves not having to compete with the Internet, phone calls, and interruptions, even the most pleasant ones.

If I treated my family and friends with the same disrespect I often treat God, the same reluctance to give them my full attention, I wouldn't have good relationships with any of my family or friends.

It's just that simple.

I have told myself, time and time again, that I can worship God anywhere. And that is true.
But what is missing in anywhere, is getting to know God at a deeper level. At Church that deeper level often comes from listening to a sermon that rocks my soul and asks me to look at myself in new ways that challenge me. It is finding a Bible verse that seems like it was written only for me and what I am going through in that exact moment.

Human relationships only grow if they are given significant time and attention.
My relationship with God only grows if I give Him significant time and attention.

The math equation is simple, really.

More quality time with my husband + getting to know more about him at a deeper level =
a deeper and more satisfying relationship with him.

More quality time with God + getting to know more about Him at a deeper level =
a deeper and more satisfying relationship with Him.

So at church this week, during one of the hymns that had tears streaming down my cheeks, I asked God to please forgive my stubborn ways, my reluctance to come closer and know more of Him, my being stubborn about coming to His house to worship.

The words to the hymn were ...

"I give myself away, I give myself away, so You can use me."

You can't give yourself away if you are being stubborn and have your heals dug in so deeply that you don't have to change.

And a prayer was answered. I could feel that stubborn spirit melting inside my heart.

And I am grateful beyond words!

God Bless!
Love Linda


Peggy Sue said...

That was Utterly beautiful Linda!!!
how you word your 'truths' and write them down... I also believe God has a sense of humor. And I at times have argued with him. That may seem "blasphemus'sp to some...But he knows me..and he knows in the end I will follow him... I have had moments in my life starring at the ceiling thinking outloud, "are you kidding me, you want me to do this?? can't I just do it like everyone else?" I picture the lord looking down at me shaking his head with a soft smile playing on his lips..knowing full well "he will win the battle of wills" lol. My mom went to a all back/african american church in texas. it was on her bucket list. She loved every momment of it... she said to me. "They dressed so lovely, with hats and jewlery and the men in suits ushering everyone to there seats. There gospel music was something. These people know how to worship".
Thank you for that memory and for this wonderful post :)

Vicky said...

Oh I can so relate- such a huge challenge for us all to get out the door- Sunday mornings. We did find that was a solution that worked for quite awhile- church on a non-traditional day like Wednesday evenings. But alas, this new hockey season has meant Wednesday night practices again so we're back to being a little lax on always making it to church.

So beautifully written- loved sharing in your experience and learning along with you :) hugs friend~

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