Preferences, Convictions, and Commitment

I knew this would happen.

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I knew I'd drop my kids off at VBS at our old church every morning last week and miss that place.  I missed it bad.  My husband and closest friends could read it all over my face.

Two years ago, we became members at a different church, the church that we still attend.  Our decision was primarily fueled by the desire to stop commuting half an hour each way every week and to become part of a church body in our home community.  This change was challenging because I loved City Pres.  Had we left because we had been hurt or upset, the transition would have been easier, or at least more clear-cut.  

When we first started coming to Providence Road, I was encouraged to hear the gospel preached so emphatically and to be welcomed immediately by kind people who genuinely love Jesus.  But I missed so many other things about our old church that I struggled to worship in our new one, and still do at times.  I miss the hymns, the responsive readings, the paper order of worship that I could hold in my hands, the communion wine and the kneelers off to the side.  I miss the austere reverence that filled the building and the beauty of the building itself with that big red door, the stained glass, and the wooden arches.  I miss the size of the body and the variety of ages found in it.  I miss those sweet people, many who we've known for twelve years, many who walked with us through the most difficult season of our life together and watched as we renewed our vows in that 100-year-old sanctuary.  

What I have had to realize is that most of the things I miss about City Pres are truly preferences and not convictions.  We are convicted that we need to be in a church in Norman where the gospel is proclaimed boldly and shown to be essential in the lives of the church members and leaders.  That's it.  When Christ stands at the head of a church, all of the minor issues can go.  There is value in finding a place and remaining committed to it, even when more comfortable places exist.  If everyone quit things as soon as they became uncomfortable, no one would ever have children, finish school, runs marathons, or remain married.  

This is not to say that I've had any easy time dying to my preferences in honor of my convictions.  But, He does help my heart.  Two years later, I can honestly say that although I still miss City Pres, I love Providence Road!  As I've slowly loosened my hold on what I want, He has shown me how the gospel can break down all sorts of barriers to give what is needed, namely God himself.  I can love and serve at this church because it is His church and my preferences are secondary to His kingdom. 

We like each other.

(Originally posted 1/6/17 on Blogger)

Shortly before Christmas, our community group from church left the kiddos at home and went out for hibachi, drinks, and Christmas lights.  There were 14 of us, all of various ages and in diverse stages of life.

Somewhere in between the onion volcano and the catching-the-egg-in-the-top-of-the-hat trick (how do those guys do that?), our chef asked what we were celebrating.

"Nothing in particular," said Gretchen.  "We're just friends."

"Really?  So how do all of you people know each other?" asked the chef.

"Church," someone replied.

"Oh."

  {I could almost literally see the wheels turning in this guy's head.}  

"So you're not celebrating anything, and you actually like being around each other?"

"Correct."

"Hmm.  You don't hear that very often."

I'd have to agree.  Sometimes I'm even shocked that an accumulation of such different individuals could not only get along, but want to spend time together.

Let's be honest: Church people can be cheesy, annoying, judgmental Bible-beaters.  With a few random exceptions, this was the perception I had of Christians for the majority of my life, until my husband and I reluctantly joined a small group at our old church and were pleasantly surprised to find something that contradicted all of our prejudices.

People were kind to us.

We brought a big, turbulent mess to a group that had been flowing smoothly, and we were welcomed with open arms.  Every week for a whole semester, someone from our group babysat so that we could have regular date nights.  People threw wedding and baby showers for each other.  Friends dropped off coffee or lunch to other group members' workplaces, just because.

More than just caring for each other, though, perhaps the most stunning thing about that group was that people were normal.  Yes, we all loved Jesus and tried to challenge each other toward being more like Him, but people had regular, secular jobs.  We read good books, watched good movies, and had parties that were fun and not lame.  Some families sent their children to public school, some to private school, and some homeschooled ... and nobody cared what anybody else did or tried to change anyone's mind about it.  It was genuine and organic, and it was true community in, I think, one of the most unlikely places.

Andrew and I left that group about a year ago, not because we wanted to, but because we felt that it was important (and more convenient) to do life in Norman, where we live.  Doubting that we would ever find community in church people again, we drug our feet somewhat in joining another small group at our new church.

But, we did find community in church people again, so that's twice now that my expectations have been completely defied.

We found friendship in this rag-tag group of folks who consist of a realtor, a teacher, students, a school counselor, an interior designer, a campus pastor, stay-at-home moms, university employees, and artists.  The youngest person in our group is four months, and the oldest is in her sixties.  We eat hibachi, watch each other's kids, have football watch parties, set up meal calendars for group members who are sick or busy, bring our chaos, and invite other people to be part of this crazy thing we've got going ... because we can ... because, by the grace of this God who is seemingly all we have in common at times,

we actually like each other.

You can also find this post here.