I grew up in the church. I attended Sunday School, Bible School, and went to every retreat and lock-in when I was young. I sought comfort in the church during the worst times in my life. It was the church who has showed up to serve me in my darkest hours. I met my husband at church, my best friends at church, baptized my children at church. I’ve taught Sunday School, served on worship teams, volunteered at VBS and participated in countless Bible studies. Church is my family. Worshiping God is in my DNA, literally AND by choice.
And yet, I just can’t with church right now. I’m not mad at God or the church. It just hurts too much. When I go there, it’s like a spotlight on my loss. Instead of focusing on worshiping God in that space, which I truly desire, my heart hurts and it is a distraction. I see all the intact families. I see husbands putting their arms around their wives during the sermon. I see what I used to have and it hurts so badly.
That isn’t anyone’s fault, including my own. And I whole-heartedly know God understands. I also know I need the church. I need to be part of the church. But for right now, I can’t. I’m still in my Bible. I’m still talking to God. I’m still talking to my kids about God. But I’m in a season of I just can’t with it!
I know this won’t be a forever thing. I know I’ll be back, because I’m designed to be back. But I’m also giving myself time to work through it. And if that means I’m not as engaged with the actual church building or worshiping during the services going on within those walls, I think that’s ok. I’m watching online and working on being “the church” in my personal life – in my community and with my friends and neighbors. I’m teaching my kids the way I always have.
What I’m learning in this season of rest is how ever-present God is in all the places. I’m not disregarding the importance of the church community. I’m not minimizing the impact, or even the instruction or benefits of worshiping together. But I am noticing God with me even (or maybe especially) when I just can’t. He’s in the tender moments I’m sharing with friends. He’s in the miracles of new buds on the trees and birds joyfully singing in the yard. He’s in the powerful spring thunderstorms and in the bluest of skies. His majesty, power, love and grace are available to me no matter if, how or where I’m seeking Him.
The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.
It was strange not going TO church on Easter Sunday. I think it’s only the second time I’ve ever not gone. The first was last year, because it was just hours after my husband died. And the second was this year. The truth is, I think about the crucifixion and resurrection almost every single day. Not just the day the calendar says we should gather to acknowledge it. My hope is in the resurrection. Knowing the promise of eternal life, of being reunited with my husband one day is what sustains me. As the song goes, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow!”
Maybe you’re reading this and worried about my soul. Let me reassure you again – God and I? We’re good. I promise. Or maybe you’re reading this with understanding. Maybe you too have experienced a season of needing to jump in your Jesus boat and head off to your desolate place for a bit.
It’s a sabbatical of sorts. In Hebrew, Sabbatical comes from the word Shabbat, i.e., Sabbath, which literally means “ceasing.” It is a rest. I need rest. The goal is this time will carry me to renewal and I’ll be able to more clearly see God’s will for me.
So, be assured I am not abandoning the church and I am certainly not giving up on God. It’s quite the opposite, really. I am allowing myself this time-out, this Sabbath, to come back stronger, recharged, and ready to work! It is my hope this time will strengthen my relationship with God, not weaken it.
I don’t have a set amount of time in my head. If I feel like worshiping in the church building, I will. If it hurts too much, I won’t. I hope to feel ok with it sometime soon though, because the church is a vital part of me. It’s a necessary thing in my life. It’s how I know this is temporary, part of my healing I think. I need the church, and the church needs me, because it needs all of us. We are all part of what makes church work. I bring my personality, gifts and talents and others bring theirs. It’s what makes it all work together beautifully.
So, I’ll be back! But not today. Today I’ll be renewing my mind, seeking God in a quiet place to find His will for me.
Romans 12:2 (NIV)
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.