One weekend last month, Lucy woke up on a Saturday with a fever and a gunky eye. She then slept for 6 hours, the fever left her, and she clearly felt much better.
However, the gunk persisted. I was texting my boss at the daycare for her insight, and she mentioned that the gunk could be a symptom of pinkeye. As it turned out, it was.
But I didn’t find that out until going to the urgent care at the children’s hospital nearby. Oh, but that was on the following Sunday morning, because The Little Clinic in the Kroger close to us was closed by that time Saturday night. Oh, and when I went to The Little Clinic first thing Sunday morning when they opened at 9:30 AM, they couldn’t treat Lucy because she was 10 days shy of 18 months old… GAH.
I know, I know. It’s a liability for them, blah blah blah. It was still frustrating. So, per their recommendations, I made my way immediately to the urgent care at the children’s hospital here… which didn’t open until NOON. Yes, I recognize that ultimately this is all no big deal, but it made me sad to miss church, and because it DID turn out to be pinkeye, for which you only need- wait for it- eye drops. (And yes, I recognize I wouldn’t have been able to take a child with pinkeye to church anyway. Still.)
(This picture doesn’t have anything to do with this post. It’s just beautiful. Thanks to Kara Faith Photography.)
As Boromir said of The One Ring, “It is a strange thing that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing… such a little thing.”
Indeed, Boromir. Indeed.
But aside from the light and momentary nuisance of driving back and forth to various urgent cares several times, it got me thinking. I realized that this is the sort of thing I might be doing on a Sunday if I weren’t a Christ-follower. Now, I promise my intention is not to be sanctimonious or anything; this is NOT a post about church attendance… or maybe it is- a little.
(The rest of these are just from my phone… Didn’t want y’all to think these were on the same level as Kara’s photography.)
It just struck me how the lack of coming together for that hour of corporate worship affects the individual (in this case, me) so acutely. I know I was bothered by the inconvenience of driving all over, but moreso I was bummed because I was missing out on being at church.
A church service is different from personal quiet time or even small group Bible study. It’s a lot of things, but for me, it’s a time and place where I find a unique respite for the soul. It helps me turn off the traffic of my mind and tune in to who God is and what He is doing on a higher plane.
(This is how I go to work… riding my police see-saw… I mean, motorcycle… with my morning sippy cup.)
Maybe that’s a sign of my immaturity, that my awareness is often most heightened by the corporate worship experience. But say what you will about a kick drum and lights and a guitar, sometimes they’re the only things that get my attention. (Remember- the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak?) Plus, having someone up there who spent time exerting themselves to dig into the word of God and listen to what the Holy Spirit was prompting them to say emphatically reminds me of how I want to be living that way, too.
I want that intention, I want that in-tune-ness that comes from striving to know the Lord. Because I don’t WANT a kick drum to be the only thing that gets my attention, and I don’t want a church service to be the only way that I participate in being The Church.
Something about being there with everybody else adds to that reminder of intention. It reminds me that we’re all straining at the oars together, just like the disciples in Mark 6. That reminder sticks with me throughout the week, because it’s so much easier to not feel that community in the day to day occurrences, obligations, or temptations.
And I know- straining at the oars and being disciples doesn’t only happen at a church service. In fact, I think the service is really more of a doorway to that aspect of discipleship. But Satan wants us to forget that. He’d love for us to zero in on the church service on its own, for us to get wrapped up in the kick drum and all that goes with it.
That doesn’t mean the corporate worship experience isn’t crucial to the church. It’s like writing this blog- I share my story not to showcase some greatness of mine, but to document the process God is taking me through, and to remember the glimpses he’s given me of who he is and who he has made me to be. When we gather for that worship time, it’s seeing the walking stories (as Brooke Fraser brilliantly calls them) gathering, chapters overlapping with each other, giving glory to God.
A less contemplative name for this phenomenon is- community. After all, there’s only so much introspection a person can take; eventually, it just becomes self-absorption (in my experience anyway).
A church service is only an hour long, but it’s a holy hour that anchors my week. Without it, life can feel like “a quick succession of busy nothings” as Jane Austen called it in Mansfield Park. But by dedicating that hour as a group, we help each other stay on mission- on God’s mission. By showing up, we also communicate that the people there are a priority to us, and that what God wants to do there is a priority to us.
(Maybe that’s why showing up- and bringing our children with us- is so important. They pick up on what our priorities are… Okay, so it ended up being a little bit about church attendance. Sermon over.)
And I know- I had to miss church to take my daughter to (multiple) urgent care(s). No big deal. There will be times when I miss church again. The attendance isn’t the point.
It’s the holiness. Holiness hushes my soul, stops the traffic jam of superfluous thoughts in my head, and really? Holiness helps me rest. And because of that, I think it is inextricably linked to enjoyment. Holiness is part of digging in to deep goodness; that’s something a soul can savor- or enjoy.
How much more fitting to have communion- a feast and a remembrance- together? Missing out on communion means I miss out on that unique moment of holy community with you and with God. I for one am prone to forget to savor, forget to remember, and that shows. Going to church just happens to be one of the best ways I conquer that forgetfulness.
No, the church service is not the church. But it’s an important part of it.
The hope for me (and all of us) is to not only enjoy the heightened awareness, the enjoyment, and the remembering during a church service, but to walk through its doorway to discipleship. To live in the glorious autumn- or winter, or spring, or summer- light, constantly cultivating that attitude of awe, turning palms toward heaven, and enjoying the presence of God at all times. A feast and a remembrance. I hope that growth- that process- is something you are enjoying, too.