Photo by mattijn
Long-time followers of this blog know of the tumultuous history my wife and I have had with Church. After a nearly four year long hiatus, we decided to make attendance a priority in July of last year. We showed up, broken and wounded, and found complete acceptance. As the healing process took shape, we found ourselves surrounded by people who genuinely cared about who we were and how we were doing, regardless of how differently we were doing it. Relationships were built and friendships forged. Eventually we no longer had a lengthy debate as to whether or not we were actually getting up on Sunday morning. God was present in our midst and it was good.
Months later, it was announced that our church would be reproducing and creating a new church in the area of town my wife and I live in. One church, two locations. My wife and I were thrilled. We figured this would be an opportunity to get in at the “ground floor” and have an opportunity to really get involved with the church. We became part of the launch community along with about 40(ish) other members of our congregation. After a few months of planning, it was finally time. In March, we had our first service inside an elementary school located in the heart of North Knoxville.
My wife and I were there. The service had a few hiccups, but that was to be expected. As such, we didn’t think too hard about the fact that something seemed a little off. The next week, things went a little smoother, but we still didn’t address the fact that some part of our soul was left unsated. We talked about it, and agreed we’d give the process more time. By the end of the first month, the majority of the kinks that were blatantly visible were seemingly worked out… Which meant we were wrapped tightly in a cocoon of technical excellence and no longer had an easy explanation for why we felt so distinctly that something was missing.
The topic came up between us more and more often. We had committed to giving the new church a fair shot, so we remained. I loved the people on staff at both locations and was worried that going back to original location would hurt feelings and cause problems. Unfortunately, with each passing week, the… offness became an elephant in the room for both of us. By summer, it had become easy to justify “accidentally” sleeping in more and more. If we weren’t there, we wouldn’t have to make a decision.
Sometime in September we realized we had more or less wound up back in the same position we were in before we decided to return to church. It finally became apparent to us that we simply were not ready to rush into a new religious groove. But honestly, if you had asked me, I couldn’t have told you why…
Until yesterday. We decided on Saturday night that we were going to venture back to the original location. Sunday morning came, and we made ourselves get up when the alarm clock told us to. We stumbled through the doors, grabbed our cup of coffee, and collapsed in what used to be our usual spot. As the caffeine began to make its way through my blood stream, I started looking around at the others milling about before service. And that was when it hit me.
The people were what was different. As I looked from face to face, I realized that I knew these people. I knew back stories, I knew struggles. Seeing that person worshiping God meant something else because I knew about their difficulty adopting a child. Seeing that guy take communion means more when you know how long he struggled with the idea. It’s not that the people filling the chairs at the new location aren’t fantastic, but we’ve not had years of small groups and picnics with them to find out. Not yet, anyway. But for now, we’re just not ready to take that leap. The baby steps required to get back into all that is good within the church need the comfort of familiar faces accompanying them. It might be selfish, but in that moment yesterday I realized that I was home in a way that I hadn’t been in quite a while. And it was good.
I think sometimes we need to steady ourselves on one another. For now, we need to lean a little harder on their shoulders than we might normally. After all, we’re part of a community… We’ve got to build our strength for the next round of selfish kids who can’t stand up on their own just yet.