This month, I will purpose to be thankful every day.
November is beginning on a Sunday in 2020, and it finds me in fellowship at church. Illegally. And gratefully.
The past ten months have been full of uncertainly and unrest. But in my world, other than a brief hiatus in March, church has been mostly a constant. In the midst of the chaos, this IS a place of certainly and rest. This is a place to belong.
Though I live in a democratic republic, I serve a King who rules above it.
This monarchy exists on a higher plane than any government built upon the will of the people. Mortal kingdoms, including this one, will come and go. But the kingdom in which the church exists is eternal.
It’s not the building, not really. But the bricks and boards represent the souls that gather inside. The gathering is more necessary than I appreciated at the beginning of the year, and all the more precious for the cost of it.
In church, the Word of God is preeminent. It is powerful, and I have experienced the power of God at work as people take Him literally.
In this place meet the people who wept and prayed with me when my son went through brain surgeries as an infant. Here are the best friends of all colors and sizes that my children have known since birth. Here are the givers who have fixed our vehicle when we couldn’t, who surreptitiously left envelops of cash in our mailbox before lean Christmases, who quietly handed me food or sent money or even offered to take my gazillion boys when I had a surprise hospital stay.
This is the place I have watched wasted drug addicts discover that a relationship with the Lord alone can fill their void. I know men with prison records who have been transformed into our close friends and pillars in my community. Here are the people who send missionaries to start schools and medical clinics, who teach hospitality by example, and who go out into the slums and haunts of darkness to share real hope. I have watched the despondent who considered ending his life find future in a new one. Here I have seen single mothers discover their village. I have seen many orphans adopted, and foster families take in just one more - again. In church, I have said and done selfish things. And been forgiven and given a chance to try again.
Here I can sit among broken sinners who all crave a perfect Savior. Here I am just one beggar meeting other beggars to find eternal bread. Here I meet God in the midst of my friends. There is nowhere else like it.
Can I meet with God at home? You betcha. Daily I sit in the predawn quiet, before the natives awake, and He speaks to me through His Word. Daily I stand at the kitchen counter, wearing my spot in the linoleum, and worship Him amidst the dish soap bubbles and old swollen Cheerios. Daily He holds my heart, guides me, and picks me up when I stumble. Going to church a few times a week could never replace that intimate connection I have with my Creator. But fellowship is nonetheless vital to strengthen it.
My relationship with God is a deeply personal one. He would be with me in solitary confinement (hard as that is to imagine from my vantage point amidst my horde of shared DNA). But even I, an introvert who craves personal space, was created to require interaction with real live humans. Even I realize how much community impacts my life.
I’ve been to post-Communist Romania, and I’ve seen children who lacked the love of families in their fragile early developmental years. They are emotionally, mentally, even physically scarred from the lack. It’s heartbreaking. No amount of argument on Twitter could fix them. They needed love and care; they needed touch. In the current culture, in which we are strained financially, mentally, socially, and politically, fellowship and community are even more critical than ever before. We can see the fallout from the forced lack. Though others may argue that certain aspects of life are more important than communal meetings, I still have the right and ability to disagree. Acts 2:42 says the church "Continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers." I don't take that as a suggestion.
It may be that my children will watch my husband or me get arrested for going to church.
They may see us suffer for our choices.
THEY may suffer.
They will likely see the cost of living in a kingdom that supersedes this world. I love America and I love comfort, and I long for my children to thrive in both. But I love the church body and the Head of the church more, even at the risk of suffering or causing offense. So I take my family often, as I have since they were born, into fellowship and into communion with people who serve a higher Master than any we'll vote for in a couple days. Because even if the world as we know it crumbles, they will still have a place to belong.
So today, I am thankful for my church.