There was a time, not all that long ago, when church was an option for me. I would get up on Sunday mornings, with a head full of intentions but yet I could never seem to make it off the couch, explaining to my husband as I settled in with a coffee and my latest novel, that I just needed some "me" time.
And in reality?
I couldn't muster the courage it took to get dressed and cover myself with a mask of self confidence.
I was hurting. And for months I did everything I could to shove that hurt back down to the bottom of my heart. I was too afraid to engage with community, too afraid to reach out and build lasting relationships, too afraid to let my guard down and be ministered to by others. There is only so much burying that a person can do before the fear and the doubt bursts at the seams, and oddly enough it usually ends up leaking out the eyes. There is only so much hiding, cocooned in your home, pressing all of that frantic "please don't come near" into a far corner and hoping it stays where it's placed, that a person can do.
But I found myself asking, if I didn't want to go to church because I didn't feel like I belonged then how come I felt so out of place in my own home with its soft yellow walls and warm colour schemes inviting me to nestle deep and long? And in Jacob-like fashion I wrestled with this question. I grappled with trying to understand how God could possibly want me in a place where I no longer felt safe, where I no longer felt connected to Him or his people. How is it that this, church, should be part of my life?
It took me a while to realize why I felt so utterly alone. I had stepped outside of the greater narrative of God. I had stepped outside of the story, the purpose, the plan that He had for me. My connection to God is linked to my connection with others. My acceptance of His grace and mercy is intrinsically linked with my acceptance of those with whom I engage in community. The very essence of the saving gospel is intertwined with other members of the body of Christ. Community is a natural extension of our salvation. To ignore it, to ignore this gathering together, is to ignore our reason for being.
We were created to worship. We were created to exalt praises that honour and glorify God, because this pleases Him. John Piper writes, "The climax of His happiness is the delight He takes in the echoes of His excellence in the praises of His saints."
God delights in us. Let me say that again -- God delights in us. He relentlessly pursues His delight while basking in our praises to Him. It is only fitting then that we make it a habit to come together as one body, unified under Christ, to let our praises echo through our hearts as a community that is seeking to firmly entrench themselves in the pages of God's story.
No wonder my home felt uncomfortable on those Sunday mornings when laziness and good coffee beckoned. It wasn't guilt that my spirit was feeling and it wasn't conviction about my not taking the time to make the Sabbath holy. No, my soul was searching for the sound of praise and longing to find its way back home. Back to the story that God has written for me.
"So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into ‘the Holy Place.’ Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of His sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The ‘curtain’ into God’s presence is His body.
So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps His word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:19-25 MSG)