When I went to college I just didn't have time to go to church.
I moved. Started a career.
Dealt with my mom's death without the church. It wasn't perfect, but it was ok - I wasn't angry with God. I just learned that life is fragile and sometimes people get sick and sometimes they don't make it - no matter how much they or you pray.
I got married in my back yard with a retired pastor officiating for $35. The local United Methodist church said they couldn't do it since we weren't members. They suggested we call Rev. Fite instead.
And yet, when my first born child was 1 1/2 I knew, like a homing pigeon, that I needed to be in a church. The fact that my stepson, who was 14, had recently moved in with us helped as well. For some odd reason I figured that the only place I could learn about how to raise a 14 year old was in the church. (btw: I went to the church that had said no to the wedding 3 years earlier.)
One Sunday not too long after I started attending the pastor did his normal altar call after the sermon and for some reason as we stood up to sing the final hymn I felt compelled to go forward. I have no idea what the pastor said that morning, but the hymn was "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus"
I remember the surprised look on his face, the questions he asked as the congregation continued to sing; he wanted to know my name, if I had ever been baptized (I had as an infant) and if I wanted to join the church right then by profession of faith. Through my tears I said, "yes."
Afterwards I can't say that I felt a whole lot different, but I sure was welcomed by folks. That church showed me and my children radical hospitality. It was later that I figured out that it has been a long, long time since anyone had come up and joined without pre-arranging things with the church staff. But there I was - a newly minted member of Mountain Park United Methodist Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia. I had always figured I was a Christian, but now I was a member.
I joined a Sunday School class - I intentionally chose the one with folks who had kids my stepson's age. For the next couple of years, until we moved, we attended worship on Sundays and participated in the life of the church. No committees, not many expectations. My husband was angry at God at the time and was not interested in church, so the children weren't baptized. I was ok with that because no one pressured me to do otherwise.
When number 2 child, Hannah, was born I remember some people from the church stopping by to bring us some meals. The very best thing was the strawberry jello with lots of real strawberries in it. Funny, the things you remember.
It was in my Sunday School class that I learned that Jesus was God. The whole Trinity had escaped me until that time. I'm not sure if I wasn't listening, or if I just missed it along the way. Probably a little bit of both. I was 30 years old.
12 years, 2 more children and three moves (and 3 churches) later, I was in seminary.
God sure does have a sense of humor.
On this All Saints Day, I can't help but think of the Saints in my life. Many of whom I don't even remember their names. Go figure. I hope that one day we can renew acquaintances and reflect on the various places God has taken us. Actually, I count on this to be true. The communion of saints and feasting at the heavenly banquet all sound pretty wonderful to me.
A facebook friend asked earlier this evening; "Have you ever wondered, in the quiet moments, if what you give your life to---time, energy, heart, soul---really matters or makes any measurable difference?"
Yes, I have...
I think God is ok with me asking such questions. And yet, I don't really know how to respond to her apparent angst. Except with my story.
in Christ, together