Sunday, May 19, 2019 started like any normal Sunday, except for the fact that it didn’t at all.

I suppose waking up to Andrew’s alarm was normal enough, but not going to church was not normal. My best friend, Kiara, graduated that morning, so I was going to support her at ten o’clock instead of going to church.

I got ready as usual, but instead of getting in my car to drive a few blocks to church, I drove thirty minutes to meet up with her mom, grab some flowers, and get over to the college before her brother had to resort to dramatics to keep the seats he saved for us from getting stolen.

The graduation was nice, but long. Thankfully, there were lots of trees making the outdoor event cool and shady. The abundance of trees was also a bit of a hindrance, however, since a large bush was in between us and our view of the stage. Shortly before it came time for Kiara’s name to be called, we stood up and walked over to the other side of that bush so we could see her as she walked across the stage.

Kiara and me. Not pictured: her brother scratching his nose, which is why the photo is cropped the way it is.

When she had walked, we sat back down and continued listening to the rest of the ceremony, wondering what the people looked like that the bush was keeping from sight. We listened, and I thought about what would be going on at church at that time. Sitting there sort of reminded me of how you sit in church. Everyone was dressed up and sitting there pretending to listen to profound words, but everyone was there for their own reasons. They were there to see someone they loved be celebrated and to celebrate with them.

Even though it reminded me of sitting in church, it also was nothing like sitting at church, which mentally flustered me a bit. I realized during that time that I base my whole week around going to church Sunday morning.

Strange how that small change of missing church can make a whole week feel off. Since I didn’t go to church Sunday, I haven’t been able to remember what day of the week it is. Tuesday I thought for sure it was Wednesday and that we’d have church that evening but no, there was no church. I was hoping having church Wednesday night would help me get back in the swing of things but no, since it was the last Grace Family for the school year it was different and I still find myself confused.

I remember the having that same feeling during those weeks of being in the hospital after my lung collapsed. I had a hard time remembering what day it was and everything blurred together. I find it both strange and right, good and bad that going to church sets the mood for the rest of the week.

I don’t believe we are supposed to feel like we must go to church every Sunday to know or prove we are a Christian, but I do know we are called to fellowship with other believers (Hebrews 10:25). I also don’t believe we are to feel like church is a chore or something to check off our to-do list, but at times, especially for me right now, it can feel that way.

Andrew and I have started attending a small group for young couples. We get together in the house of a family that is devoted to ministry and we often end up off topic. But most of the time, I get much more out of the two hours I spend there every other week than I do by sitting in church every Sunday.

We have a lot of hard conversations in that small group. Deep conversations that bring us closer together and closer to Jesus. It may help that there are usually about six of us, so it’s just three couples instead of a whole church. We don’t get to play pretend or be fake there. There is no reason (or space) to when you’re all sitting in a living room and can see each other face to face, instead of looking at the back of people’s heads. It makes everything more real instead of seeming like the service is on it’s way toward becoming a performance.

It makes me wonder how many others must feel this way, too. When going to church is simply what sets your week up for normalcy, are we going to church for us or are we going to church for Jesus?

I find myself thinking about church more often in a negative way than in the positive way I believe God intended. Too often, church (or at least, the church building) feels like a chore, or like a place we can’t be ourselves. We put on our Sunday best and pretend everything is okay for a couple hours, and then we go back to life as usual. Instead, I feel like meeting together was meant to be the place we could be ourselves to the fullest and enjoy the joy of being with other believers and caring for each other.

What would happen if we quit believing that to go to church, we have to pretend to be perfect? If we could go to church and feel the boldness to raise our hands in worship without worrying others will think we are weird or judge us for it? If we could all be real and carry each others burdens instead of pretending everything is fine?

Maybe it’s more of a me thing. As an introvert, I don’t like how many people there can be at church. I feel like going to the altar is dramatic most of the time. If the music isn’t on key or the timing isn’t right, I have a hard time focusing and worshiping the rest of the service.

Yet, I remember how my sisters would video chat me in to the service when I was stuck to my hospital bed and I was thankful to not miss that week’s sermon. How coming back was a celebration. How I was thrilled to be back on stage leading shortly after surgery.

I was so happy to be back, able to sing and praise God. There was a lot of joy, even in the pain and uncomfortable feeling of my stitches and drain (I actually let them put a stool behind me, which is hard to see. I rarely ever sit down while up front, but I did a few times that week). Thinking back to that feeling of wanting to be back at church and how wonderful it felt to be there, I suppose one could say I have realized I’ve lost the joy in meeting with other believers and in leading them into worship.

How could missing church one Sunday make me realize I’ve lost the joy? Because it feels more like a to-do than a want-to-do.

What about you? Have you lost the joy too? If so, what can we do about it to bring the life and joy back into meeting with fellow believers?

I’m going to try to check my attitude at the door more often now (I’m sure Andrew would attest to my Sunday morning moods…rarely ever am I sunshine and roses on Sunday mornings) and use Sunday as a resting day to remember my joy in Christ instead of as a timepiece to set the normalcy for the rest of the week. I’m going to try to remember I am at church and am a part of the church to get closer to Jesus and build relationships with others. I want to be in that mindset instead of getting myself in a bad mental state so I don’t feel obligated to be open to the people around me.

I want to start being able to see church on Sunday as a start to the week that helps me keep track of the joy instead of the time.

Sunday, May 19, 2019 started like any normal Sunday, except for the fact that it didn’t at all. It started changing my outlook on church and, in a way, my relationship with Jesus and others.

(Edit: Shortly after this post was published, I experienced quite the life change. At this time, I cannot post about it, but someday I will write an addendum.)

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