Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: SHOP (01/03/19)
TITLE: A Place to Call Home
By Janet Richey
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Forty some years later I found myself in a mega church sanctuary that also served as a banquet hall or a basketball court, or in some cases, a dance floor. Surrounded by people I barely knew, I had never felt more alone. I had been going to this church for over four years and still hadn’t made any connections. Maybe I tried too hard, or didn’t try hard enough. Maybe I should have stuck around another six months to give it another chance. But that morning, as I sobbed my way out of the sanctuary in the middle of the sermon, hoping, (or not), that someone would stop me, I realized it was time to move on.
Having been to five different churches over the course of 28 years, church shopping was nothing new to me. We were not the model church-going family. My husband rarely went with us, and my two daughters and I struggled to fit in, no matter how long I stayed, or tried. At one point, I found excuses to not go at all.
Why didn’t we fit in? Was it really because my husband wasn’t by my side in the church pews? Were we that socially awkward? Were we not “Christian” enough?
Five churches. Three different evangelical denominations. What were the odds that all of them would treat us the same way? Clearly it had something to do with us. We were, and still are, difficult people to love. Like a slide show on warp speed, I can visualize moments of hurt. Why couldn’t they extend grace to us? Why, God, would you make me such a misfit that I couldn’t make a connection? Why, when I was earnestly seeking you?
That’s when I realized that I was asking the wrong questions.
What God, are you trying to teach me? Is it possible that You want me to extend the grace that I’d been withholding, before others can extend grace to me? In what church Father, do I need to be the person You created me to be, quirks and all, and ignore any judgment or condemnation I might feel from others? Maybe You’re trying to teach me contentment, in the middle of the storm.
That day when I limped out in the middle of Sunday service, I knew I had to pull myself from my bootstraps, change my perspective, and start over. The drive home was filled with repetitive prayers for forgiveness. “God, I’m not running from You, I am running from Your people.”
It didn’t take long to feel the conviction that running wasn’t such a great idea. After a lot of praying, it was only a matter of weeks before I found a church that was further away than I had ever driven. It was a church that was diverse; a church where no one knew me or my past.
My shopping days are over, at least for now, anyways. I wish I could say that I am totally accepted in the women’s ministry; I’m not. I wish I could say that I selflessly volunteer in one of the many ministries; I don’t. But God has led me to a church that, by it’s own confession, is filled to its steeple with imperfect Christians, needing grace and forgiveness, just like everybody else.
This journey reminds me of James 1: 2-3 ESV,“Count it all joy...when you meet trails of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith brings steadfastness”. Sometimes you don’t know what God is creating in you, until you’ve reached your destination. Sometimes the key is staying on the path.
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