Today I am excited to welcome Whitney. Whitney and I have know of each other for years, but only recently, through our shared passion for writing and blogging, have we started to connect as friends. I absolutely love to read her work. She shares from her heart in a way that makes you feel like you are reading a letter from a dear friend. Today she helps us tackle our current topic: why bother with church? I am sure you will appreciate her thoughts.
“Forget it. Let’s just stay home.”
Read that aloud.
Did you hear that?
It’s the sound of an exhausted mama at her wits end. A mama who had every intention of getting herself and her family out the door for church—only to be met by roadblock after roadblock until she just. gave. up.
It’s the sound of exasperation and it feels helpless and defeating.
Those words, in whatever form they may be spoken or thought are also the victory cry of the enemy who wants to use anything and everything he can to keep us from plugging into and engaging with an uplifting community of believers.
I don’t know about you, but I feel this threat of attack just about every time I’m trying to rally the troops out of bed and out the door to get somewhere where I might be filled or encouraged or engaged. Whether it’s church, prayer group, Bible study, or just to Starbucks to read my Bible and write—there is always SOMETHING:
- The preschooler who refused to go to bed at a developmentally appropriate time who refused to get out of bed, eat breakfast, and put any clothes on.
- The toddler and/or preschooler who did not approve of your choice of wardrobe for them who hides from you, surfacing five minutes after you were supposed to leave, naked as the day is long.
- The baby who never spits up who happens to projectile vomit all over himself and your ONE CLEAN SHIRT (the one clean shirt that currently fits, anyway).
- The dog—the sweet grandma golden retriever who probably senses all of the anxious rushing and pees all over the floor. Not just any area of the hardwood but the most highly trafficked area of the kitchen. The area your toddler likes to crawl, so, you don’t need me to tell you what ensues.
- Lack of sleep. Y’all. I could use being tired as an excuse for most of life. I have four kids under six years old. It is a good night when two of them sleep all the way through, and my two year old could surely contend for the title of “world’s most fitful sleeper.” I also, to my demise, love the post-kid bedtime silence that I enjoy nightly after the routine kitchen clean and living room tidy. It really should only last from around 8:30/9:00 to 10pm. BUT, I relish it and hang onto the peace and quiet until suddenly it’s midnight or 3am or something like that.
- The weather: My windshield is frozen. The roads are icy. It snowed. It’s windy and I have allergies.
- “I’m already too late, no use leaving now.” (anyone, anyone?)
- “_________ has a runny nose.” With four kiddos, if I really lived my life not going places because a kid had a runny nose I WOULD NEVER LEAVE MY HOUSE. Barfing and fevers are another thing, but I have, unfortunately used a little snot as an excuse to stay home.
You know how they say “the struggle is real?” Well friends, this is more than just a “struggle.” It’s a battle. The BATTLE is real—and it’s not a battle against the flesh, it’s a battle against “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). The enemy wants to keep us out of church and far away from those who might lift us up in prayer and encourage us along in our faith journey. I am learning that I have to stay on guard in order to dodge all of the flaming arrows being fired in my direction when I attempt to join others in community to worship and study The Word.
It is not a coincidence that you don’t go to church because your “kids don’t like the nursery,” and it’s no mistake that you choose to sleep in most Sunday mornings because you “just need family time.” Satan disguises himself as an “angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14) and uses things in our lives that are “good” to keep us from God’s BEST. He wants to keep us as far as possible from connection—from going deeper in relationship with other believers and most importantly, getting more intimate with our Mighty Father God.
But what if we viewed the roadblocks that stand between us and going deeper in fellowship with other believers as actual barriers set up by a conniving deceiver who wants to keep us stranded on our own island, drowning in a pool of our own tears and kid snot?
Something happens when we stand firm, silence the lies, and just decide to GO. Even when we are “already late” and there is dried banana spit up on our shoulder. Even when our kids are dressed and have their hair brushed but we are still wearing yesterdays leggings and have an extreme case of bedhead under our beanie. God doesn’t keep us from temptation, but the good news here is that He SUSTAINS US in the midst of it! (Hebrews 2:18, 4:15-16) When our tired, rushed, anxious spirits SHOW UP for Jesus, He meets us; falling upon us like a quiet inhale and calming and soothing our souls like a deep, refreshing exhale.
I don’t know where you are today in your faith journey, but I encourage you to press into whatever it is that might be keeping you away from the church—or from being intentional about engaging on a deeper level within your church community. I know the immense effort it takes to get out the door. I know the insecure feeling that creeps in at the thought of intermingling with a bunch of strangers. I know that the easiest thing to do is to just stay home and not let anyone else into your mess. But, dear reader, that is the voice of the one who wants to do whatever he can to KEEP us out of the family of God that we were created to be a part of! Trying to do life alone without other believers is like trying to change a diaper with one hand while holding a full-to-the-brim cup of hot coffee in the other. It’s dangerous and rough—and much messier than it needs to be.
I know the church isn’t perfect. There are people who annoy you. There are misunderstandings and hurts. I know that it’s risky to put ourselves out there and it often feels awkward and vulnerable. But while it can be uncomfortable and sometimes annoying, it is ultimately life-giving—like love often is.
But, then there is that voice—beckoning us to stay home because: “The worship isn’t up to par,” “the sermons are dull and preached out of the wrong version of the Bible,” “the people are too old/young/cliquey/charismatic,” “the nursery/Sunday school/childcare doesn’t meet my expectations,” etc.
We’ve all had excuses, but bottom line is: THERE IS NO PERFECT CHURCH.
If we get hung up on so many details details and let them keep us away—or keep us from deep connection as we go “church hopping” around, we will spend a lifetime searching for the perfect church to come along and “fix us,” when the truth is that Jesus wants to meet us where we are and do the fixing while we keep showing up—tired, hurried, humble.
God sees our hearts in the midst of imperfection; and friends, when I stumble into church on Sunday mornings and hear voices lifted in praise, I can feel the light and love of God shining down, smiling.
He doesn’t expect “perfect” or “pretty”—and in all truth, something is wrong if it is.
“The church was made to be messy. It isn’t a spiritual social club; it’s a shelter.
A refuge for the misused and misunderstood. A lighthouse for the lost, not a spotlight for the spiritual. A place where we can look up from the messes we’ve made and discover that we’re not the only ones who make them.” -Tyler Speegle
Sure, God meets me in my mess of a house and at my kitchen sink and in my living room as I sing and dance to kids praise with my littles. But the bottom line is that WE NEED CHURCH AND WE NEED EACH OTHER. Hebrews 10:24-25 reads:
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Let’s not forsake the assembling of ourselves together— it is vital to read and study the Bible and worship in community. God calls us to be together; to open our Bibles together, break bread together, worship Him together. Acts 2:42-47:
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
When we get snagged up and stuck in the “excuse-traps” that are inevitably and skillfully set for us, we must prayerfully recognize them for what they are and be disciplined with our response. We need to acknowledge who we are dealing with:
God wants us to be together; the enemy wants to keep us apart.
God wants us to be encouraged; the enemy wants us discouraged.
God wants us to be engaged; the enemy wants us to remain on the outside.
God wants to bless us, the enemy wants to deceive us.
God wants us in community, the enemy wants us in isolation.
God wants us to rest in him, the enemy wants us insecure and afraid.
God wants us to be united, the enemy wants to keep us divided.
This a war and we need to go to battle for ourselves, for our spouses, for our children, for our friends, and for that person who by no mistake has been placed in the seat next to us—longing for connection; for a friend, for Jesus.
So, get up and go find your seat in the sea of faces who all fought against their own slew of elements to get there—show up weary, show up late, show up discouraged. Show up like the precious treasure you are, washed ashore in the early morning tide.
Together, in His marvelous light, we shine.
Whitney is am a mother and a writer who encourages moms in all walks of life to just be–to find the sacred little pockets of peace that wait for us in the midst of the messes of motherhood. To not just “get through” the tough seasons, but write hymns on our hearts, and sing. She blogs at Mother Hymn and you can also find her sharing here: