Today we went out to a typical church for our denomination. Paul and I dressed up knowing it was a more traditional place. We were still under dressed. Paul was one of three guys in the whole place not wearing a jacket. Whoops! So we go into all of this trying to be open to the new experience. The church was beautiful. Very clean neat and orderly. It was also very cold. Not one person welcomed us. During the passing of the peace we were all but ignored until the very last moment when the people in front of us turned around. The best we got was an associate pastor smiling a half smile and telling us they were so happy to have us. Some how, I don't think she meant it. She looked pained just to say it. Maybe I read too much into it because at that point we were ready to leave and church hadn't started yet. Church started considerably late, which as a parent of a two year old was high frustrating. I only get an hour to keep her still after that it is unbearable for all parties involved.
I read the bulletin as I waited. There was no mention of mission. Fundraisers check. Meetings check. Note about sending your children to the appropriate worship with out their parents check. It became clear that there was no place for us a "young" family with a 2 year old. Worship apparently starts at 3 years old. There was no note of a nursery. People were not very understanding of Lilia's chattering or speaking in tongues as I like to call it. So we were toughing it out. Paul took Lilia out of church twice. I was trying to make it through the sermon when Paul came back in and Lilia had leaked out of her diaper all over the both of them. I took my chance and we high tailed it out of there.
I was a little shocked because this church boasts a preschool. How can you have a preschool and not welcome a toddler in worship? The sermon ultimately went into stewardship. I wasn't surprised. They maybe keeping their older folks happy there but inevitably no matter how deep the pockets they are not the future of the church.
Last year when we were out here, we were in worship at the chapel. Lilia was just a year old then. She was fussing and making noise and Paul and I obviously got tense, worship, new people, and trying to make a good first impression. Someone came over to us and told us that her sounds were welcome as a part of the worship in this place. That pretty much sums up what we are looking for in a church home.
Tonight I went back to the church we went to a few weeks ago. I left Paul and Lilia at home because she had already been to church. Paul being very wise encouraged me to go and clear my head after a long day of cleaning and organizing. I headed out on my own and arrived with just a minute to spare. I plopped down in a back pew and noticed this amazing drumming going on. I felt the whole week melt away. I closed my eyes and what happened next I can only describe to you as being a transcendental experience. I relaxed into the pew with my hands open on my lap. I felt myself begin to just sway with my eyes closed. Then it was as if I was somewhere else, some place of tremendous peace and love. As the worship leader called us into worship I was overcome with emotion. Being in a new place I held it back... barely. All through out worship I kept holding back tears. Over and over again I was moved. I witnessed the most beautiful baptism. I left thinking well I think I know where our new church home will be.
Then it hit me, of these two churches the church I come from, that raised me is much more like the first than the second. I thought for a moment maybe I had wasted my time there because I never really connected with the worship. However, I did connect with the people and I never ever felt like Lilia wasn't welcome, they were welcoming her from the moment they knew I was pregnant. I am kind of left wondering why I was called to be in that place, to stick it out, because I often did feel like I was sticking it out. Then it occurred to me that I would not be in this place if it wasn't for that place. I am reminded of the Lion King and the circle of life. I am so blessed to have come from a place that has loved me and helped me grow into this person that I am.
Being the cynic I am often apt to be, I thought for a moment maybe this music I connected so deeply with was meant to manipulate me into this experience. Then again maybe I needed to be brought into that place emotionally to be vulnerable enough to connect with God. I think that is highly likely because I know I put up walls to keep people out and I am beginning to suspect that God may not be excluded from those walls.
I want to go to a field and weep maybe even sob. Alas I still have a paper to write!
Today I am grateful to be a loved child of God. Just as I am.
May you be blessed to know this God intimately.