Estimated reading time: 4 minutes:-)
I didn’t grow up in church.
It’s a fact I’ve grown to not resent nor cherish, but it is a fact that has molded me to be who I am today. By no means does going to church instill in you some inherent faith as a child, and no Christian, claiming they are saved by their diligence to weekly worship, is genuine. We are not saved by going to church, and I believed I was saved long before I set foot in a church building.
But church is also something I have grown to value above many other things. I often am amazed at my peers who neglect going on Sundays, or complain about it often. Admittedly, I’ve skipped a few Sundays here and there. And I am not so diligent in my attendance just to check a box or uphold a reputation. But I genuinely, desperately want to go to church every week, and I can hardly fathom someone who knows Jesus and doesn’t want to spend time with him.
And I don’t say this to judge or condemn anyone. But I simply want to emphasize how I’ve grown to value church so highly.
About a week ago, I was blessed to have the opportunity to be baptized. I asked my Theology teacher after months and months of deliberation and prayer and honestly confusion. The only baptisms I’d seen were in small tubs, separated at the front of the congregation and brief. I didn’t want such a brilliant, incredible thing to be so stale. But my frame of reference was so limited, I was confused on how to go about getting baptized.
I talked with my Theology teacher about the conflict I felt. I wanted to get baptized, but there were so many people I cared about from both churches I attend, school, and family groups that I didn’t know how to include them all in a God-honoring way.
Finally, last week I was baptized in the hot tub in my backyard. Not in church. Not in front of a congregation of applauding baptists. But in front of my family, a few friends, and some neighbors. A baptism that epitomized my walk with God.
I have been lonely a lot of my life. For years, I studied the Bible alone, in my bedroom, with God Calling as the only outside voice reaching in to the isolated spiritual bubble I had created for myself. I often asked my dad about faith, and we had good discussion. Eventually, in sixth grade I joined AWANAS, which helped me memorize and understand scripture. But other than these few things, most of my time with God truly was alone.
I truly did believe that my faith was internal and individual. Solitary and confined. It was my life.
But deep inside, I longed for community. I was ridiculously lonely. I wanted to go to church so badly. My friends would take me sometimes, but that was only every once in a while. Actually, for many years, I believed church was wrong, simply because my family didn’t attend. I thought the structure of church was flawed and therefore, pointless to attend. How wrong I had been.
I began to attend church the moment I had my licence, and often I would sit with my brother or alone among the pews listening to a lesson each week. For a while, I felt like I didn’t belong. I still struggle with this feeling even today; I’ve noticed the belief I once held that church is wrong and shouldn’t be supported is so deep-seated, even now, two years after I started attending, I still struggle with feelings of inadequacy and illegitimacy.
Why hash this all out in such detail?
I share my testimony on community and loneliness because we’re made to be relational, external beings. And my own story testifies to the fact.
We weren’t designed to be alone. And faith is not only internal and individual. It is external and outreaching as well.
I think I felt this deep inside as a kid, in the indescribable desire I had to sit at Bible teacher’s feet and listen to their lessons at every chance I got. For so many years I strove to understand scripture on my own, that when guidance or differing opinions were offered, I lit up. They were some of my greatest joys.
This is why I value church so highly. This is why I wanted to be baptized, partially. Because I know that community is an essential piece of God’s plan for his kingdom. And I can’t do it alone.
Matthew 18:20 reminds us, “For where two or more are gathered in my name, there I am with them.”
And in Proverbs 27:17, we are told, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
The verses go on. It’s blatantly obvious in the Bible that fellowship is important and that community is essential. We can see it in creation, when God created a partner for Adam because he was not fit to be alone. Each of the letters to the churches in the Mediterranean include phrases of “my brothers and sisters.” And service, part of Christ’s example that we are called to follow, is extremely relational.
Our culture praises independence. I often hear the phrase “independent woman” as I grow older. In fact, I’m an extremely independent person myself. I want to do things alone, figure them out with my own intuition and volition. I don’t like asking for help.
But dependence, at least on God, is a practice I’ve had to learn over the years. And dependence on the body of Christ is also a practice I struggle with, but need.
We are not created to charge life alone. We are not created to decide what we think the Bible means with our single, flawed perspective. This is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way.
Proverbs 3:5-6, as many of you know, says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
If we could do it alone, we would have saved ourselves long ago. But we are so helpless on our own that Jesus came down, suffered, and died so that we can be with him. Our own savior is testimony that we are desperately dependent on God and his grace.
So as dependent people, reach out. Ask for help. And if you’re like me, asking for help is like pulling out hair. But do it anyway. Learn from others. Depend on God for the blessings and safety you have.
I’ll leave you with Psalms 121:1-2 🙂
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
The Maker of heaven and earth.”