Am I in the Wilderness?
Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. Hosea 2:14-15 NIV
After that beautiful experience with Papa I went on to serve in that church for another year. Around the end of that year, I met my husband. Life was great, but there was a dilemma…where would we fellowship? We were each attending our own churches where we had been at for some time. I had taken my husband to the church I was at, but the people kept asking me about my ex boyfriend even though things ended between us a year earlier. They would ask that question even when I had already introduced my husband and he was standing right next to me. My husband’s church was a traditional black church. And while I can worship anywhere as you can probably tell by my journey so far, I wanted to be somewhere that represented the diversity of all God’s people. We agreed to start fresh and thus, our church hunt began.
Unfortunately, during our search for a church home, my husband’s work schedule changed requiring him to work on Sunday’s. His job is not the type of profession where you can just change your schedule at will. To top it off, we had lost one of our vehicles, leaving me without transportation on Sunday’s. I was entering into a wilderness season.
We were not part of a conventional church for quite a number of years, but we did start a little Bible study with some friends. We met weekly and had a great time. Sadly, schedules changed again and group Bible study never picked back up. Time continued to pass us by and we still had not found a fellowship to become a part of. It was not for lack of trying, but everywhere we went, something was missing.
What did I learn during this time? A lot. I still talked to God every day. I continued pursuing him the way I knew how. Eventually, the Lord blessed us with a little boy and we raised him in the Lord teaching him all we could. It was amazing his grasp and understanding considering he had never been part of any organized church body for any extended amount of time. We give God all the glory and honor for that.
Over time however, something changed. Something changed in me. There was a distance and a longing that was growing inside of me. Suddenly Papa’s voice didn’t sound as clear. Where had he gone? I still prayed. I still talked to him. Things just seemed more silent than they have ever been. That was not how our relationship operated.
My faith was wearing thin. I never stopped believing in God, but my faith had taken a beating that left me holding on to razor-thin hope. I was reaching a point of desperation. What was happening? Why was I feeling this way? Why the drastic change?
I came across a flyer for a women’s conference near where I lived. This was it. I was going to muster up every ounce of faith, put some makeup on my beat-up soul and head to this conference. Maybe God would meet me there. He did. I still remember the message, “Where did you let your faith die?” If that wasn’t an on-time word? Jesus! I began to feel breath returning to my lungs and life pumping through my veins. Was the message that good? It was good, but that’s not what it was.
When I stopped regularly fellowshipping with a body of believers, I lost my connection. I got cut off from the blood supply. We are called to be a body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27) and not to forsake gathering together (Hebrews 10:25). I thought I was fine. I figured we would find a church eventually, but what I needed was to be more intentional in my pursuit. Pursuing Him means pursuing the body. And just to be clear, we can be part of a fellowship and still not gather together. Remember my Brooklyn church? I attended regularly, but I was not intentional in pursuing the gathering together with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
I firmly believe this is an area as a church and as believers that we miss. As attendees, we think just going to church on a Sunday allows us to meet the gathering together “criteria” spoken about in Hebrews. But it is so much more than that. It is about developing relationships that take place outside of the church building. It’s about being family, you know, the whole brother and sister thing. Seriously, think about it. If I told you that someone was my sister because we meet up at the same coffee shop every Sunday just to be sisters, but nowhere else or at no other time, what would you think? Based off of that comparison I am more of a sister to the woman I speak with every day when I drop my son off to school. Sounds crazy, but that is our mindset inside the body of Christ.
See, relationships are messy. If we were to let people in beyond a Sunday gathering or midweek Bible study, they might see that we aren’t perfect. Doing life together might just show that we don’t have it all together. Did you ever stop for a minute to think that God made it that way? He calls us a body, but we want to run around a bunch of feet talking about how we got it all figured out. You are feet, but you can’t even see where you are going. Some of us know we are feet in the body of Christ but afraid to admit it because we feel maybe the eyes are greater. Well guess what, doesn’t matter what those eyes see, without the feet, those eyes can’t go anywhere. Instead of focusing on the identity of our position within the body, let’s focus on our identity as sons and daughters. The rest will follow suit.
Those messy, not so perfect areas in our life are the exact areas God called us to work together. We are designed to be a piece of the puzzle, not the whole thing. Yes, our Sunday and whatever other day gatherings are important, but they should be supplemental. Do you know where you stand on this matter? Let me ask you a question. If tomorrow the church building you attend disappeared because of a tornado, would you still have a church? If you answered no, your answer is more of a problem than that tornado.
Come back tomorrow for the final chapter…Where Is the Church?