Yesterday we went to church.
It was the first time that I had been in months.
It was never intentional, this skipping church. At least, it wasn’t in the beginning. Before my husband deployed we went regularly as a family as I had for my entire life. Then he left and things started to fall apart. It began with my default reaction when things are hard: hiding.
The Sunday after he left I didn’t want to see anyone. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I didn’t want people to ask me how I was doing. I needed time to sort out my feelings, privately. I wanted space.
The next week it was a snowstorm. The next, sickness. Then picking up a visitor at the airport smack dab in the middle of church services, on the opposite side of town.
It went on like that for awhile. Life honestly just got in the way.
Then a shift happened. Somewhere in those long six months I just decided not to go.
The Evangelical-guilt began to grow. In my (then) 27 years of living, I’d never gone that long without setting foot in a church. I knew all the things that people would say to me, the same things that I might have said to someone else who started feeling wishy-washy giving up their Sunday mornings.
But still, I didn’t go.
Instead I enjoyed the lazy Sunday mornings with my boy. We went to parks, we cuddled in bed, we shopped. Once we went on a breakfast date.
Sunday mornings coincided with Caleb’s day off, at an hour that he could actually talk. So lots of Sundays we would sleep in and then wake up just as he was available. Skype would ‘ping’ alive and we would spend time as a family, Hadden and me from my comfy queen-sized bed in Nebraska, and Caleb from a tiny cement room on the other side of the world.
Then we moved to Ohio and I chose to wait until Caleb was home to visit churches.
And since he’s home now, we went to church.
I suppose that that isn’t the whole story though. Mixed into this narrative are some pretty complicated feelings about church. I cycle through feelings of anger, love, sadness, disappointment, excitement, confusion, and hope. And even though I’m back in church, those feelings haven’t left.
But this is what I want you to hear:
When I wasn’t at church, I still was the Church.
I prayed, for myself and for others.
I attended our small group regularly.
I was convicted and so I confessed.
I was involved in the lives of Christian friends.
I read my bible and I studied theology and church history.
But still I didn’t go to church.
It was the kind of faith that I would have ridiculed ten years ago. I would have been suspicious of someone who claimed Christ, yet didn’t attend to church.
Even now I can’t bring myself to recommend it to someone else. I can’t claim that it’s good practice for a Christian to avoid church.
But, as strange as this sounds, when I went to God with my guilt over skipping church, God came back to me with grace. Grace for skipping church. Grace for needing space. Grace for being where I am.
It comes down to this:
I am the Church whether or not I am there. Whether or not I like it. Whether or not I am feeling and believing all the right things that day. I am the Church on my best days and I am the Church when I’m at my very worst.
I am the Church when I consume Christ’s body and blood and when I drive through Starbucks. I am the Church when I sing out my faith alongside other Christians, but also when a secular song shakes me to my core.
I am the Church.
Are you okay with that?