I blindly grab for my cell phone, making contact with the snooze option for the fourth time. Eyes still closed, I work up my best personal pep talk. It's going to be worth it. You're not that late. Do it for the kids, at least. Wait, isn't it your turn to greet this week?
An hour and a half later, we come quick-stepping through the church doors; bags and babies and coffee in tow. Exhausted before it's even begun. The hallways are silent; everyone else is already tucked away in the auditorium. The music tells me that worship has already started. Of course it has.
I offer a helpless shrug and an exhausted apology when we shuffle in late. Plopping down in a chair, I meet the eyes of the other tired mamas who just ran that same Sunday morning marathon alongside me. We exchange wobbly smiles and silent encouragement.These are my people.
I never really want to go to church. I just don't. I crave lazy Sundays with big breakfasts in our jammies. I don't like sitting in the bathroom to nurse the baby or apologizing for my toddler's very public meltdown. I like quiet and cozy and real and deep, and church is not any of those things for me.
I have a lot of big, weird feelings about church in general, too: some frustration, some hurt maybe. And I just don't really know where I fit in the whole thing of it - as a woman, as a young adult with radical notions about everything from politics to food, as a mom of little kids who are neither quiet or still. What is my role here? I will die if you tell me my place is in children's ministry.
A year or two ago, I would have said Let's just do home church. I'll make the coffee, you bring the gluten-free doughnuts; we'll turn the kids loose in the playroom, break out our Bible app, and talk about grace + politics + what a radical Jesus was. (To be honest, I still kind of want to. My house or yours?)
It took me awhile to reclaim church. Maybe you're wandering in that wilderness, too. Perhaps you aren't sure how church fits into your life in this season of career-launching and child-rearing. Or maybe you're lugging around some baggage that you definitely don't want to spill out in front of religious people, so you're avoiding the place altogether, busy or not.
I hear you.
I hear that you don't trust the people behind the audacious building programs or the rock-concert worship or the $5 lattes in the lobby. I hear that you love Jesus but His people exasperate you. I hear that you are lonely, and I hear that you think you're supposed to be because somehow, God made that your burden. I hear that you loathe giving up your Sunday morning for a few hours at a holy country club when you really just long for the nearness of Jesus and someone to share it with. I hear you, sister, because I'm sitting right beside you, out here in the vast wilderness of Who am I And Where do I Fit?
Can I tell you that there is hope? Can I tell you that Jesus loves His church even when she's arrogant and selfish? Can I tell you that you need Church, in any of the thousands of ways she exists? Can you tell it back to me? Because I'm desperate to hear it.
There is a holy rumble underfoot. Can't you feel it? The Kingdom is already coming; its showing up a little bit more every day.
Some people would have us believe that the world is going up in a blaze of sinful deeds. I choose to believe that we are feeling the final contractions of a long labor; a new iteration of the Church is being born.
This kind of growth has been happening for all of history; Every 500 years or so, the church contracts and then expands into something bigger, bolder, and more close to completion.
This is where we are at today, I think; in the transition phase of bringing this new thing to life. Any woman who has ever birthed a child can attest that transition is the most intense phase of labor, both physically and mentally exhausting. It's arduous work, this bearing of new life. But there isn't a mother anywhere who would tell you that she regrets her children.
We are the church, you and I. You cannot bail on church anymore than you can bail on your own personhood. You can stop attending the event, sure. But you're still a part of this ancient-future community of ragamuffin disciples journeying towards Home.
We've hit a hard stretch in the journey. It's hot out here and the water is running out and the leadership seems questionable at this point.
Stay the course.
The day is coming when the old, makeshift walls of a man-made Christian culture will come crumbling down. Like generations before us did, we'll sort through the mess, pick out the treasures, and build it back up again, bigger and more inclusive than before.
I want to be around for the rebuild. And I hope you will be, too.