I am a child of the church.
I was raised going to church every Sunday and my Sundays didn’t consist of only one service. Oh no. We went to early morning prayer at 9am, Sunday School at 9:30am, Morning Service at 11am – there would be a sort break between services for an early dinner and then we would return by 6pm for Evening Service. Add to this our weekly Bible Study and prayer services I was in church no less than 4 times a week, sometimes more. This was my childhood, this was my life. Yet, I had to take a journey that finally helped me realize it’s not all in the going,
As a teenager, I rebelled.
I wanted less church and more of what I thought to be life. I stopped attending services, I started hanging out and I started exploring. Still every Sunday morning I would wake up feeling like I needed to be there. The fight to ignore that nudge was harder than simply going. Yet I would fight. I wanted my independence and for whatever reason skipping a service felt like the first step towards it.
My rebellion caught up with me.
The decisions I made had consequences and I became a Teen Mom at 17. There was no more fighting, no more resistance and no more of ME in the scenario. I needed my foundation. I needed HIS strength because mine was failing. So back to the church I went. It was there I found more of Him. Yes, I knew I could be in His presence outside of those 4 walls still there was something about those four walls. They embraced me, they comforted me and they encouraged me.
In my adulthood I still struggled with the laziness that would sometimes creep up. Maybe I won’t go today. I prayed this week, I had my study time, I was in relationship with God. I can stay home today and simply relax. Simple choice right? I can’t say if it is because of how ingrained Sunday Services were in my life or simply because I always felt like I was choosing myself over God. Every day I decided to ‘relax’ I would spend most of it feeling guilty for not going. Waste of a day, right?
Then came my married life.
My husband was not raised attending services every week. To him his relationship with God was a more personal one without need for congregation or a building to maintain it. He could truly take or leave a church presence in his life because for him being with God had nothing to do with 4 walls or even the people within them.
It seemed so easy for him to hang around the house on a Sunday without a care or thought to whether he should be somewhere else that day. While I paced back and forth debating on whether to enjoy the family time that of that day or take a few hours and attend a service. For me, Sunday was never ‘my day’ so when I took it I always felt a sense of wrong but should I?
I envied him.
I wanted to shed the guilt that was holding me so tightly. Was he right? Was I placing more pressure on myself than even God required? Did my fellowship with other Christians define my own Christianity? I began to pray. ‘God let me know if this was something YOU require or something I require of myself.’
In our lives as a military family, I didn’t have the security of a church home and I was lost. The church that was always there for me was gone. We would literally have a month of Sundays without even the hope of a church service. I began to feel like a ship with no anchor. I was uneasy, unsettled and ungrounded. It was as if having what I’d been longing for – no where to be on a Sunday – showed me how much I actually needed it.
Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. I Thessalonians 5:11
I needed that. The comfort of others in the same walk and journey as myself. I began to search, to pray for guidance and to actively seek out those 4 walls. The same ones I felt were so confining I realized now that they were my support not a fence. Without them I was becoming stagnant in my growth. I was simply treading water without any forward progress.
We finally settle in,
I prayed to be lead to a church where I could be taught, encouraged and find the fellowship I had been missing for so long. I needed my wilderness wandering to end. I needed to find somewhere I could be grounded and know I belong. I found that place nearly 5 years ago now. Even when we had to move away again and it was to this place that I felt the strongest pull to return.
I have learned that my attendance is not something that should be a weight to me but instead taken for what it is – a call for fellowship. It is not my duty but my privilege. To engage with and have a community of people that I can share my story with and learn from their own is a blessing. This is why I attend church now. I had to learn that Sunday was not all in the going to church but more about finding a freedom in my commitment to God to be who I am as a person as well as remain strong in my relationship with Him.
No longer do I attend church simply because I should. I attend now because I desire to. I find encouragement, fellowship, teaching and support within it’s walls and whether I make it every Sunday or not I know that when I need to be there I will be. In finding my freedom I have finally realized and become ok with the fact that it’s not all in the going.
Do you attend church regularly?
Do you feel bad if you miss a service?
What do you feel about church attendance versus home relationship?