For some, the time spent at home during the pandemic, away from corporate worship, was hard.
For others, it was good.
And for some, that may seem hard to hear or believe. You may wonder, how can worshiping from home be good?
But coming from someone who has enjoyed watching church from home — I have to tell you — it’s true. It can be good. For some, really good.
I know there is something about coming together to worship and sing and listen and learn in a community that just feels right. There have been plenty of times when I’ve stood to sing while the tears have poured from my eyes and rolled down my cheeks as the music lifted my soul. I love listening intently to the pastor as his voice rises and falls, with all of the people around me fully engaged in the message coming from the pulpit. I missed that during the time at home, I really did, but if I’m being honest — and I always am — the time of watching church online in my pajamas from the comfort of my couch, was, and still is, incredibly fruitful.
I think part of it may be the season of life I find myself in — one I’ve been in for a while now.
When the kids were younger, it was harder to get to church than when my husband and I were just married, in our mid-20s, with only ourselves to care for. At that time in our lives, we rarely missed a Sunday. We attended our church’s monthly prayer gathering, and met with a small group of people every Wednesday who became our best friends. We were active, and I never imagined not being that way.
But at that time, there was a whole lot about having a family that I couldn’t imagine, because until you’re in it, you just don’t really know.
After having children, our intentions to remain active and involved were good, but life happened. There was so much happening outside of our control, and while that seems so obvious, it was still sometimes really hard for me accept. With four small children, each just two years apart, an illness could go through our family for weeks. And sometimes, we were just too exhausted after sleepless nights of toddlers crawling into our bed, nursing babies and midnight diaper changes. We wanted to make it to church, but we just didn’t have the energy to get everyone ready and out the door.
I imagined us being a family that never missed a Sunday, but that just wasn’t the case.
And for a while, I struggled with this.
When I was younger, I was taught the importance of showing up on Sunday. For me, at that time, it wasn’t so much about the personal relationship as it was about doing the things you were supposed to do during the week to appear faithful. It was more about the rules and the laws and the should-dos than the never-ending love of God.
Fast forward to my adult years – even though my faith had grown, I was still tangled up in this. Somewhere inside, I was still believing God’s love for me was somehow based on what I did, or didn’t, do. My Christian title hinged more on my actions than simply on my faith and love of Christ. It became more about my appearance on the outside, then my relationship on the inside. It was about checking off the boxes.
Church on Sunday? Check.
Quiet time? Check.
Small group? Check.
Prayer time? Check.
These things are good. They help us to grow and abide in God and develop deep relationships built on faith, but they are not requirements for faith. This is where I was entangled. I made it more about what I was doing, than about who God is.
I made it more about me, then about Him.
I remember something a wise, older woman said to me when I was attending MOPS. At the time, I had my two young children and was caring for our friend’s daughter as well. I remember walking into the meeting frazzled and questioning and doubting. I began talking about how I felt like I was failing at so many things. I felt like I was doing a lot, but none of it that well. I felt pulled and stretched thin.
She looked at me with kindness in her eyes, and in a soothing voice said, “This time will go so fast. Years from now, you will have time for friends and dates with your husband and all of the things you want to do. You will have space in your calendar, but for now, you are doing exactly what you need to do. You are caring for your family and your children. And it may not feel like it now, but this time will go by quickly — so try to enjoy it.”
Or something along those lines.
It stuck with me. It penetrated my heart and my soul and became my mantra for years. This time will go fast. It will not be again. There is much in life that is outside of my control and years from now I will have more time and space than I will know what to do with. So for now, I will try my best to be present where I am — with whatever may come.
That helped me to remove some of the guilt. When the kids were sick, or something kept us from church, or small group, I would remember this is just a season. These things are out of my control. This is what I need to be doing right now.
My faith is so much more than whether I walk into a building on Sunday morning. It is so much bigger and grander than that alone.
Interestingly, when the pandemic hit, we had already been watching church online. We had the flu go through our house not once, but twice, and a series of other things that kept us from physically being there. So, we gathered on our couch to listen. We stood to sing. And used broken crackers and glasses of orange juice for communion while the fire crackled in the fireplace under the tv. We were wrapped in blankets, some of us sitting and others lying down. It was beautiful and magical and warm and worked for us. So when lockdown happened, we were already accustomed to this form of worship. We had been doing it for a few months. It was no shock to our system.
And now, today, we are still watching from home. Our church has been open for months, but right now, in this season, this works for our family. As we’ve been worshipping and growing and taking notes and singing from home, I am learning more and more how to untangle myself from the lie that God will only meet me at the pews under the lights while the band sings on the stage.
Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
I am there.
In the church. In the living room. While walking in the woods. When sitting at the coffee shop with friends. In Zoom prayer meetings. At the bars with a beer in hand. And gathering for dinner with neighbors. He is in all of it.
We each have our own faith journey. Our own personal relationship with God, and He teaches us all things in His time.
This time at home has been a time of growth for me. My relationship with God has deepened and strengthened and honestly, my church attendance has been better than it has been in years.
I am being reminded continually that it isn’t about how things appear on the outside, and it isn’t about a list of boxes to be checked off, it’s about my heart. It’s about my desire to be with Him and talk to Him and learn about Him and grow with Him. It’s about abiding. In all things. At all times.
I am still learning this. I am still untangling this. It’s a journey I’ve been on for quite some time.
A journey with my patient Father who loves me where I am.