I’ve become an old lady about church. As of lately, I’ve wanted to be a part of a body where the church doesn’t come with an app, the pastor doesn’t wear skinny jeans, and people bring actual Bibles with pages as opposed to iPads and smart phones. It would be nice to hear a hymn or two and I might even be down for a monthly potluck even if it meant eating questionable casseroles. I realize skinny jeans and digital Bibles aren’t all bad, but something in my heart has been aching for simplicity and sincerity as our family has struggled settling into a new church home. The past year and a half my husband and I have asked the question over and again, “Where do we belong?”
Before our church split, our little family was part of a rich, life-giving and beautiful community. We served and ministered together. We watched each other’s kids so that we could all take turns having a date night. We showed up at hospitals and in our homes during heartache and crisis. We sweat and bled and sacrificed our time to help each other in whatever need we were facing. We fellowshipped over barbecues and birthday parties while all 18 of our children ran around creating the glorious chaos that comes with childhood. I loved that my boys were growing up with these people. They had not only friends their age, but other men and women they saw as aunts and uncles to look to for guidance and teaching. Long before Sprint came out with their clever name for a phone plan, we called ourselves Framily. More than friends and only blood separating us from being actual family, collectively our hearts and souls were knit together. Todd and I had a sense of belonging in a way that we had never known before. It was a beautiful season of our life and as most seasons go, it came to an end.
For months I have struggled with God in this place. Why would He let us experience such a deep and beautiful sense of community and belonging, to go and rip it apart? Why would He scatter us when we were so collectively awesome? The pain and heartache we have known from this loss, has been a place of deep, deep sorrow. It has felt like a death, and I have been grieving the loss for quite some time. Searching for a church home, both Todd and I have been looking to find what we had before. Frantic to find it, we wrote off place after place with little sense of belonging. Most Sundays were spent at home, our hearts too weary to try again.
Over the weekend we talked about church again. We both named that we would never have what we did before.
Nothing would ever feel the same and it was time to accept that was true and lean into the possibility and hope of what could be.
We made the decision to go back to the one church we had visited for the longest stretch of time. Even though it was different than what we were both accustomed to we felt God’s nudging and prompting us to return and settle in to becoming a part of this body.
Sunday morning, we walked in the doors. We were greeted with warm smiles and hugs and, “I missed you’s”. We were welcomed back without questioning of where we had been. During the service the pastor taught in 1 Samuel about David and Goliath. He talked about how God was preparing David for his kingship when he was but a shepherd boy tending to his flocks. He had physically fought bears and lions, killing them or scaring them away, so when Goliath made his stand against the people of Israel, David stood strong knowing he could defeat him. God had prepared David all this time to fight Goliath. Had He been preparing us too?
What if all the while we were enjoying the gifts of community, God was preparing us for something bigger? What if while sharing barbecue or building fences that God was stretching our hearts for something else? And what if we had been scattered, to take what we knew of love and community and spread it around so others could know the same? As I sat with my questions, I could almost see His face. The warm smile of Jesus, the One who works all things together for our good and His glory, the one whom I will always belong to. Suddenly it wasn’t about preaching styles or worship songs or pastors in skinny jeans. It was about Him and His people. That is what church is, and it is where we belong.
Deeply rooted in South Texas, Jennifer Stamness is a sunshine-lover, wife and mother to two young boys. She enjoys creating beauty in places like writing, music, decorating and throwing parties. She desires to follow Jesus into the unknown places He invites her to and is thankful for His abundant and amazing grace. Jennifer writes, dreams and shares pieces of her story here.