For weeks I was without a computer. For weeks I had ideas for blog posts pouring from me at every turn. For weeks I was so full of passion to write that I nearly cried when the “new” computer finally came. But something happened during that few weeks that has rendered me unable to write about anything else until I say this.
About a year ago my family and I moved an hour south of Knoxville, TN. Knoxville was our home, but my husbands job was no longer in Knoxville. He was driving an hour one way each day and with 12+ hour shifts, it was wearing on him. The answer seemed simple. Move to the country (which I LOVE) and give him a lot more time with his family everyday. Easy? Simple? It seemed that way.
For the last year we have been commuting that hour to attend our church. We have a WONDERFUL church family and are blessed with an amazing Pastor and leaders. We were determined to keep our church. At first we were doing so well, still attending every service that we had been and keeping up with events. Slowly, Wednesday nights became a problem. We stopped going. Then Sunday mornings became an issue. We managed to keep attending but the stress was wearing me out. Getting two little boys up at 6:30 and out the door for an hour long car ride doesn’t sound like much, until you do it for 9 months.
Because of my husbands rotating schedule, there are months at a time when he is unable to attend church services. Therefore, he was unaware of how stressed out I was becoming over our little geography problem. I felt like a fool every time I tried to talk to him about it. Was I seriously complaining about church??? Was I stressing about church? That couldn’t be a real problem, right?
Then came the Sunday morning when the boys and I were running late. The interstate system here is a mess all the time and this particular Sunday was no exception. Semi-trucks were zooming on all sides and cars were changing lanes without turn signals, and of course it was raining. By the time we got to church, I was bawling. I wanted to go back home and get back in the bed, but that would mean I would have to drive back! That day I prayed for answers during our response time. I prayed that if it be his will, show me that it is time to leave our church. Our wonderful, wonderful church. His answer came a few days later and it was clear. I needed to be serving in my own community.
The conversation with my husband was not difficult. He had been feeling much the same way but without all the stresses and logistics. He also felt that we were needed in our own backyard and that he would be able to attend more services if our church was closer. I did not feel foolish, for God had given me the words to use this time. See, we left a church a few years back. We left that church for a reason, but it was in haste. This time, we had taken our time, sought God’s answer, and now here we were leaving a perfectly good church.
I have tears welling up in my eyes as I type this because there is a pain that comes from being church-less. Feeling disconnected from people who love you and who have supported you, helped you grow, it’s an empty feeling. For the first time since my children were born, they won’t be participating in a Christmas program. When we visit new churches, they want to go with the other children, but I can’t let them. I don’t know these people. My heart aches, and I miss my friends. I miss that community and it has only been a few weeks. What if this search takes months, a year even. It’s a very lonely feeling.
1 Corinthians 12: 25-26 says “so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” That is the way our church made me feel.
Author Robert Velarde (Focus on the Family) says, “Every Christian is a member of the universal church because by definition Christians are believers in Christ. Therefore, they are members of His body – the church. The Bible, in fact, offers a number of images of the church such as calling it the “body of Christ”: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). The church is also called “the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9; 1 Peter 2:10). Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 4:15; 5:23).
While the visible and local church consists of organizations or institutions, the invisible and universal church consists of all Christians united under Christ.” I tell myself this everyday. Even though I am not now a member of a physical church, I am a member of a great community church. It’s hard. I seek edification. I seek true community. I miss my old church.
In all of this I know though that one thing has and always will hold true, when I listen to my Father, I am not alone and I am going to be blessed. Our new church may only have 5 members or it may have 5,000. It may be in a magnificent new building or a trailer in a corn field. It doesn’t matter. We will know it when we find it.
Thank you for “listening” to me today. I had to get that off my chest. Leaving a church hurts. Whether you leave because God is no longer moving there, or because of Geography, it still hurts. I leave you with my favorite bible verse and ask that you pray for me and my family while we travel this road. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5. God Bless you all!