I don’t believe in coincidences.
Therefore the timing of us going back to church as regular members one year ago coinciding with the installation of our new minister who just happened to be the husband of a teacher friend I had lost touch with felt incredibly planned…by someone.
Sometime last summer Cortney and I decided to put more effort into getting to church on Sunday mornings. We went on and off for a month or so while there as an interim pastor, then we went on vacation and weren’t in church much for a couple weeks. We knew that our church had called a new pastor because we got the letter, and when I saw the last name I remember thinking “Huh. I wonder if he is somehow related to G?” G was someone I had taught with back in my early days in my district and with whom I had taken some grad classes–she for her Doctorate and me for my Masters.
After school started, we got back into the habit of going to church again. This is when I realized not only was our new minister related to G, he was married to her.
Since that moment of realization, my life has been very different.
Going to church regularly has changed me.
No, I didn’t suddenly turn in to a praise-singing, hand-clapping, arm-in-the-air-swaying Jesus Freak (not that there’s anything wrong with that; it’s just not me). In fact, my faith and beliefs haven’t changed much at all.
I still wrestle with a lot of the same questions about God and why things happen the way they do and why there is so much pain. I still prefer traditional hymns, pastors in robes, and following the liturgy over drums and smoke machines, jeans on church leaders, and unpredictable passage selection. I still believe women have a place in leadership roles.
What is different is more internal.
It’s something that almost surpasses words, it’s more of a feeling.
Church is more than sitting in a pew week after week. It is the warm smiles and the “good morning, Sluiter Family!” we are greeted with. It is the question about my job or pregnancy or writing coming from a place of genuine interest. It’s the Peace. It’s the hymns that my grandma and mom used to sing. It’s having Eddie sit in the pew next to me coloring pictures of Jesus and humming to all the hymns. It’s the hugs I get from good friends who are genuinely glad to see me and my family.
Church is knowing all week that someone out there is thinking and praying for you–not because they are your family, but because they are your church family.
It’s a sense of peaces that passes all understanding.
It’s a community.
It’s a family.
It’s reconnecting with a friend I had no idea I needed so badly.
I’m still not a hugger or a personal-space invader. I’m still not comfortable publicly praying. I am not handing out Bibles on street corners.
But I am learning more. I am believing harder. And my heart is much, much bigger and filled with more love and people and joy and peace.
I wouldn’t say I have gotten many answers, but I have gotten a feeling of Ok about having the questions and the doubt.
And I think that is what I was searching for–a deeper sense of peace that I can draw from even in my most anxiety-ridden moments. I don’t really understand this sense I have now, but I will take it. Because one thing I know for sure: you don’t have to understand something for it to be Truth.