Shane and I have been attending church. (Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!?!?!)
It's not been consistent, and we haven't expressed any desire to make any sort of commitment, but we have been making an effort to go.
Church is something that continues to be extremely difficult for me.
Since Joshua's death, my faith has changed. My love for God has changed. My trust has changed. It's still there, but it looks NOTHING like what it used to. In some ways, it's better, in other ways, not so much.
In the early days after Joshua's death, I literally felt God's love enveloping me. It surrounded me, carried me, and gave me strength to make the decisions that no parent should have to make.
In the months following Joshua's death, my attitude towards church started to change. I had major questions of faith. I was frustrated that everything that I had learned about God no longer matched up to what I now experienced. I was angered to hear sermons about reaching the lost of the community, when my family was sitting right there, in the 4th row, screaming out for help- yet no one seemed to notice. I was torn between longing to sing lyrics of love and worship while my heart wanted to scream and curse at the very same God who allowed my baby to die.
After a few months, I couldn't take it any longer. It became too hard. It became to painful to continue on. We became the black cloud in worship on Sunday mornings. So, we stopped going. We left the church that we had been going to for years. A church that I had been on which I had been on staff. A church that had loved our family and supported us through some of the darkest days of our lives.
The absence from church was actually really good for me. I continued wrestling with my faith and after a while realized that I had to make a choice. I had to choose whether to keep this faith of mine, or give it all up and figure out how to live this life without God. I chose to keep my faith, knowing deep down in my heart that Jesus loves me enough to die for me. God's love for me runs deeper than I can ever understand. I knew that His grace covered me when I truly asked for forgiveness for my ugliness and anger.
Even with the decision to remain faithful to God, my heart didn't feel right in church. It felt very superficial, lonely, and like faith was supposed to fit in a nice neat little box. Mine, however, does not (and probably never will, ever again.)
However, after a year of being out of church, Shane and I decided to give a couple churches a try. One of the churches we attended, we both felt extremely comfortable. The pastor is a very kind hearted and gentle person who welcomed us with open arms. The congregation is big enough to get lost, but small enough to know a few people. The kids loved the children's programs and even had a few friends that they knew. The style of worship is just our style- modern and all about Jesus.
But, I still struggle. When Sunday morning comes along, I have no desire to go to church. Shane has to drag me, sometimes kicking and screaming. I sit through worship, surrounded by strangers and bawl my eyes out with every song that we sing. I listen to the sermons and beg for God to love me and forgive me for my awful ways. I beg Him to take my burden and carry me through my pain. I leave every. single. Sunday. exhausted, but uplifted- my Hope renewed, knowing that the trials of this life are temporary and that God continues to love me despite my struggles. I feel connected to God through my tears, knowing that He hears the cries of my heart and understands my pain.
We are meeting with the pastor of this church some time this week. He knows our story. He knows our struggles. He knows the questions of faith that I have dealt with. But he doesn't care. He welcomes us and loves us and is willing to walk along side us to help us heal.
Isn't that what church is, after all? Walking along side the sick and hurting. Caring for the less than desirable (of which, I think I have become.) Encouraging and helping foster a relationship with a God who loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for us.
Small steps, my friends. Small steps.