Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Burdens, weariness, and rest (part 1)

Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

To be honest, my heart, my spirit, and my relationship with God and the Church are not in a place where I am able to do much more than survive.  I am weary, poor, tired, weak, lonely and disappointed in myself and the way I've lived my life in recent years. 

Perhaps the church is exactly where I need to be. My childhood was full of the relationships shared with people in my church.  The first church I remember attending was a very small, vibrant group of about 50 people.  It was the mid-1970s. Services were held at our local YMCA, which was closed to the public on Sundays.

Can you imagine a fitness facility being closed on Sundays today?

As I grew up, the little YMCA church group changed and we moved to a larger church in a different part of town. This one was much more established, with a large building and an independent Christian grade school.  There were lots of families with kids my age, older and younger. My family--my brother, my mom and dad--went to services three times  week, Sunday morning and night, and Wednesday evenings.

In that larger church, I found it easy to make friends. There were Sunday School classes and youth groups that I participated in on a regular basis. In my junior high and high school years, a group of us girls built some strong, faith-filled relationships through Bible studies, youth activities, church trips, and more.  I felt strong and secure in my beliefs and thought I might be hearing a divine call to missions, particularly mission work on the African continent.

After high school, I attended two years of undergrad at a small Christian liberal arts college in Massachusetts. Students there were required to attend Chapel services a minimum of four days a week. The campus was small and a bit remote, though, and I didn't join an off-campus congregation for Sunday services on a regular basis.

I would say that, until college, I had gone to church for all but a handful of Sundays in my entire life. Our family would even find churches to attend while we were on vacations, in and out of the United States. Being among believers and having a living faith was my reality for my first nineteen years of life.

At the tender age of nineteen, I married Hero. We moved back home from the Massachusetts college and applied to attend our much larger (and financially accessible) hometown university. We became active in serving the children of the congregation of the larger church of my childhood--also Hero's first church home.

But that congregation had grown rapidly and gone through an enormous building project, reaching out to many new families and many new members.  Attendance nearly doubled in the first two years in the new building; we used to joke that the whole complex was the size of a large strip mall. It just had a cross on the top.

So, what happened to that child of the church, that girl of faith?

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