I went to church today. I don’t say that to boast or brag. In fact, I’m rather embarrassed to admit it’s been maybe as many as six months since I last went. And, even then, by “went,” I mean “watched online.” Because this is 2017 and technology allows for that. Which is wonderful in many ways but not-so-wonderful to the extent it indulges laziness.
There was a stretch of time recently when I was actually physically going to church on a weekly basis. And I loved it. And I’ve missed it. But I’ve allowed laziness and the illusion of being “too busy” with other, “more important” things to lull and lure me away from it.
I love my church – I’ve been attending it on and off for a decade. When I first began attending, it was one building, located in Chesterfield Valley. In the intervening years, it’s grown to include a campus in Fenton and another in St. Peters and now, a brand new campus at Grants Trail in south St. Louis County. But as big as it has grown, it still feels like “home” to me when I attend. Because, in my observation, it has always stayed on message, on point. On God. I have yet to leave a service without feeling like God spoke to me and moved in my heart. So, while I understand and recognize the hesitation many have about “church” — both the concept and particular facilities — I’m more than happy to recommend The Crossing as a worthwhile place to check out whenever someone I know may be contemplating — however hesitantly — seeking out a church.
But that isn’t why I’m writing this. In fact, as I read back over the previous paragraphs, I realize they serve to highlight the question: If it’s so wonderful, why haven’t I been going lately? Laziness and busy-ness are explanations but not excuses. The bottom line and simple answer is that my priorities have been out of order. But even that isn’t why I’m writing this. I’m writing this to acknowledge what made me return this week.
Last Sunday, at around this same time, evil stormed into a little church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and did its best to rob the people worshipping there of their lives, their peace, possibly their faith. It lashed out at people, young and old, with heads bowed in prayer or voices lifted in song, and it attempted to destroy them. And, perhaps, in the process, frighten others away from gathering to love and worship God. For in the sanctuary of church, we aren’t typically on guard, prepared to do battle. Some might even say we are vulnerable.
That was my initial thought, upon hearing the horrific news last Sunday. But that was quickly followed by a sense of resolve. No, you don’t get to scare me away from my church and my God. Not with your guns, nor your bombs, nor your hate. Not even with your honest misunderstanding and mistrust of faith and of prayer. My faith is my strength, not my vulnerability.
So I promised myself I’d go back to church. Initially, I thought of it as a show of solidarity for the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas — and Antioch, Tennessee, and Charleston, South Carolina. But I realize, that’s hubris. My heart does ache for them and I will continue to pray for them. But, in truth, I’m going back for me. Because I’ve been the one holding myself back. I’ve been the one standing in my own way. And it’s long past time for me to get over myself.
So I went to church today. But I did it the easy/lazy way and watched online. And even as I’ve been writing this, I’ve realized that’s only a half measure. Next Sunday, I’m going to church. Today’s service included this song.
I want to be able to sing that and mean it.