I am almost positive that I have never in my life missed as much church as I have since falling ill 6 weeks ago. When I was growing up…you only missed church if you were bleeding or throwing up. These things have been engrained in me and have stuck if you will, so not being able to go to church has been so weird. Sunday just isn’t Sunday without worship…and rest. We also grew up with Sunday naps…still one of my favorite things which I have most certainly maintained as of late. While I was taught that attending church is important…and rightly so…God has made it so real to me that it is in fact vital to my growth in the knowledge of His love and grace. To walk closely with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ…not just to slip in the back during the first hymn and sneak out when the benediction starts…God does bless those who do that, I would know…but journeying together with other believers is an amazing way to know Him even more.
When we started attending our church shortly after we got married…it is painful to admit this…I hated it. It was too big. I hated that I had to wait in a line of cars to find a parking spot…or never be able to find a seat (or an available bathroom stall…ugh!)…or feel so claustrophobic with so many people trying to file out while I was just trying to get out of there as fast as I could! What I didn’t realize in my selfishness was that I was actually fighting God Himself because every week what I didn’t like was Him tugging at my heart to surrender to Him. My life was a wreck but I just couldn’t see it in my stubborn pride. I thought I had all I needed. But I needed more of Him and He wanted to show me that through the lives of others. It took over 5 years of attending our church for me to reluctantly give in and take the advice of our pastor and begin to connect with others in community. Oh the dear friends we have made that have helped grow our faith. We have learned so much from them and God’s incredible stories in their lives. Little by little God took my complete disdain for our church and turned it into complete and utter delight as I grew closer to Him and those I am blessed to know and love.
While I have been laid up I have thankfully been able to stay connected to our church through technology and even able to watch live services like I did this morning. While it pales in comparison to being there…what a gift! What God has made so apparent to me is that our church is not just a building or a place to go…it is Him. God is not contained to a place. My church…my beloved family in Christ…has come to me…and so has God in His powerful presence. They have brought church to me being the hands and feet of Jesus…for where 2 or more are gathered in His Name, He is in their midst.
Our church has recently been led by God to expand with a building project to better facilitate worship and care and love people in Christ. It is titled ‘Grace Beyond’. It is so exciting because God has so clearly guided our church to this huge change and I cannot wait to see Him provide in miraculous ways. I thought for sure I would never forget the night of the big kick-off celebration because it was scheduled to be on my 34th birthday. Unfortunately I had to miss it due to my illness. I felt so sad to not be part the celebration feeling somewhat excluded and isolated. But at the very time it is being launched I am experiencing God’s amazing grace beyond what I could ask or imagine as He comes to me through His people…they really are my family. How cool is that!? He is not limited to a space or a building…bricks and mortar…He goes exceedingly, abundantly beyond what we could ask or think. I will always remember the beginning of this project…not because I was present when it began…but because I wasn’t as God has shown me so powerfully and personally His grace beyond.