I know at this point readers are expecting something about tonsillectomy or Ethan’s recovery, and I will post about that when I have more of an overview, but instead I wanted to share something that has been on my mind and heart more and more over the past 2 years…Before that, though, I’ll rewind a little to give some background.
CHURCH ATTENDANCE, THE EARLY DAYS
I have gone to church my entire life like many good southern girls. 😉 Only for my family it wasn’t just a routine like some may think. My parents raised me to appreciate church and to gain meaning from it. We had devotionals (with actual meaningful discussion) around the supper table and in our beds at night. I went to AWANA as a kid to memorize Bible verses and play. I went to youth group, youth choir, youth camps, you name it. In college I did keep on seeking out Bible studies, ministry to help International students get rides to the special food stores in the city where they could make foods from their countries they missed. Ryan’s upbringing was much the same: His family had him in church, and with a definite purpose behind it. Their family also practiced having a personal relationship with God, and with serving others.
When I was single, I went to a singles group at a church and invited my friend who is now my husband. ( Bonus! ) And when we were married, Ryan and I still stayed true to being involved in church by serving as Sunday school teachers for elementary kids and serving as youth group leaders. Ryan also joined me in doing some child sponsorship advocacy at some Christian events like church and concerts and we had a great time serving God in that way.
Then we moved to another city, and another, and attended church trying to find our niches there. The two churches were connected (multicampus church) and we enjoyed it but due to all the changes in moves and pregnancy, jobs etc., the most we did was try out being youth leaders and when I was (very) pregnant, helped in the children’s ministry.
Then Ethan came a few weeks early. And as many well know about us, it has been a very VERY busy two years! We love that little guy but wow we should have registered for some luggage and soda bottles on our baby registry, we’ve had so many hospital visits! If you are lost read Ethan’s birth story and about his surgeries and sicknesses in posts throughout.
We have changed so much about our lives, like any parents do, but it has included a ton of transitions and complete life changes such as selling our home, moving to another city and renting an apartment eventually. We did that to be close to the children’s hospital in our state and to be close to family while we are in this very busy stage of getting diagnoses, treating, and repairing things to get little Ethan where he needs to be.
WHAT WE SEE MORE CLEARLY BY WHAT WE MISSED ABOUT CHURCH
No, we didn’t stop going to church. We didn’t even stop going to lifegroup. (bi-monthly meetings, sometimes a Bible study or topical group that encourages one another spiritually) But we missed HUGE chunks of church and consistency in a certain church, and consistency in WHEN we could go to church because we were at the hospital, working, or asleep after being up all night at a hospital. I’m not trying to get out my violin and start playing a sad tune for us, but I’m saying how we missed out and why its given us such a greater appreciation for church in general!
1) GOING TO CHURCH IS A PRIVILEGE. When I DID get to attend church, I looked around a felt like it was such a privilege to join with other Christ-followers and all get together for that purpose, to worship alongside them. And it made me think, wow, this is a little glimpse of Heaven, how amazing is this? I wouldn’t have thought about that EVERY time I went to church before, but since I’ve had to miss out NOT by choice? I think about it everytime. And something interesting happens. I don’t CARE what style the song is. I don’t even really care if I know the song. I wasn’t ever one to whine about those sorts of things anyways, but having the perspective of church being such a rare privilege definitely strips away all the petty things. It may not seem petty to some, I understand, but trust me when I say it is! Followers of Christ who are in a new place, a different country, I’m sure would not care so much about the style if they had the rare occasion to meet with a fellow believer. In the same way, if I haven’t had the opportunity to have fellowship with other Christians and worship alongside them and then suddenly I get to, I will not be picky about style. Aside from the music worship, when you hear a word from Scripture by any pastor-any Bible-believing, theologically sound pastor, it doesn’t matter if its the stomping, “can-I-get-an-Amen?” pastor or the kind that talks like Mr. Rogers when he preaches (no one in particular comes to mind, don’t worry) , if you GET to hear someone teach from God’s Word..jsut break that down and think about what that means. The God of the Universe wants a relationship with you, to save you, to give you purpose AND left an instruction book and love letter that he has appointed pastors to teach from…maybe you will appreciate it more. I don’t always think of it that way, but by golly after missing a lot of church and needing it I do!
2)THE CHURCH HOLDS YOU UP WHEN YOU ARE IN THE DEPTHS. We had new appreciation for the Church because the Church acted as the Church to us in our times of need. Now when I say the Church–I mean the Christ-following, evangelical Church that came to our aid in the forms of several different church bodies and individual Christians. When Ethan was first born, some pastors we only met once at a church we visited were out mowing our lawn! I don’t even remember their names. Friends from a lifegroup that we also didn’t know well yet brought us meals until we had food coming out our ears once we returned home from NICU. People from our parents’ home churches sent vending machine money, meals, prayers, met with us in person to pray over us. A girl I met once at church texted me encouraging words and verses each morning and my youth pastor’s wife from growing up texted me similar things in some of our darkest times. I hadn’t seen her in years. People asked to share Ethan as a prayers request with their Sunday school classes, Christian friends from highschool contacted us online telling us they were praying for us last year when Ethan almost didn’t survive from a medical perspective. Of course our close friends and family were constantly asking us “what can we do? Are you ok? Can I buy anything for you? Scrub your toilet? Feed your dog?” THAT is the Church, a big part of it. Faith without works is dead, as it says in the Scripture, and all these Christians definitely put their faith to work in helping us! Even today with Ethan’s fairly simple surgery, we had pastors and Sunday school leaders from two churches come. Two of those we have only known for a few weeks.
It was kind of strange being on the receiving end of the serving, having grown up in church and served ourselves. I had a pretty easygoing life before then. I love my life more and more everyday, though, so don’t get me wrong! I think anyone who knows me and has read even a sentence of the rest of this blog know I’m a pretty proud Momma! It was a good kind of strange, though, the being on the receiving end. It made me see how much we all need one another, in the Church. Also how much the world needs the Church. Of course I did know this before, but I see it more vividly now, the need.
I say all this to say..church-goers, stop yawning at church and sing hallelujah with some gusto! (okay, you can yawn. This Momma’s tired too. But take notes and we will help slap each other to stay awake and learn something with the knowledge that not everyone in the world can get together to worship God with such ease as we do here!)
And non churchgoers..give it a shot. We’d love to have you. 🙂