Last week our baby boy ended up in the hospital with RSV for 5 days. The week was not easy… lack of sleep, hospital food, separation from my husband and daughter. And, of course, the fear that tried to creep in through “What ifs..?” and my overactive imagination. The evenings ended with me fighting tears as my husband went home without me and exhaustion got the best of my emotions. As our son slowly got better the rest of our family got worse. RSV is extremely contagious. By the time I was home I was fully sick, dealing with a sick 2 year old whose time away from mom brought on tantrums like I’ve never seen before.
Enter the Church.
I cannot tell you how absolutely grateful I am for the community of people who gathered around us. If you’re Facebook friends with me you could see the number of people we had praying for us.
I was overwhelmed by the support. Every time I posted a new update people were praying. Beyond that we had friends offering to do all sorts of things for us. We had people bringing us meals, sending encouraging messages, making hospital visits with coffee for me and gifts for our baby. We had friends offering essential oils and homeopathic remedies. I came home to laundry washed and folded. I literally couldn’t keep people from serving us.
Initially, I turned down the offer of a meal train, she persisted and set one up. (I was SO thankful for it!)
I got texts “Whatever you need, let me know!” I say nothing, and I arrive home to clean laundry.
“Can I bring you a meal?”
“We’ve actually got meals booked for the next couple nights,” I replied.
“I’ll just make a pot of soup that you can heat up whenever,” she said.
I couldn’t stop them! The people that gathered around us… they are the body of Christ. They are the hands and feet of Jesus. I am so grateful to them and for all they were willing to do for us in a time of hardship. They know what it means to be like Christ. And they are doing a freaking awesome job representing the Church.
Here’s the interesting thing… I’d been pondering “church” for 2 weeks prior to my son being admitted to the hospital. Why do I go to church? Or why should you go to church? My answer was community. And RSV totally proved me right! Or rather, the church proved itself.
Community. When you break it down, it always comes back to community. I go to church for the support of the community. I go to be a support in the community. I go to worship with a community.
I remember as a child hearing someone say, “I don’t need to go to church to talk to God. I can do it right here and right here,” as she pointed to her head and her heart. Even as a child I recognized it for what it was: an excuse. Of course, you don’t need to go to church to talk to God. That’s not really the point of church. The point of church is connecting with others. Going to church is about living life with people who are going to love you and pray for you no matter what. It’s about establishing quality relationships with people.
Do you know how God speaks? Few people have ever heard the audible voice of the Lord, but He does speak. He speaks through the Bible. He speaks through dreams and visions. He speaks almost like a thought that keeps recurring or a knowing – that’s the Holy Spirit. But most often? He speaks through His people. He uses us to minister to each other. To encourage each other. To teach each other. To love each other.
A few weeks back I was standing in worship at my seat. And I began looking around at the people. I saw the stories of the people. It starts with the story on stage. The battle that started months ago to diagnose the unknown. Visits to doctor after doctor. My gaze moved to the family who is standing in faith, believing for their daughter’s healing after a drowning accident. I look at these people dealing with horrific circumstances, and I see them worshipping our God with arms raised high. My thoughts go to our dear friends who lost their mother to cancer at an age when you’re supposed to be getting married and having babies, not planning funerals for a parent. And they are at peace. Grieving? Yes. But not agonizing. And I think, “How God? How are these people doing it?!” And I know. I know. It’s the community. It’s the prayers of the people. The prayers for peace and grace and strength. It’s the people that circle around them and hold them up when they can’t stand on their own anymore. I’m reminded of the story in Exodus 17.
“10So Joshua did what Moses had commanded and fought the army of Amalek. Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of a nearby hill. 11As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. 12Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. 13As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.” (NLT) (emphasis my own)
When Moses could no longer hold his arms high, Aaron and Hur came and held his arms for him. I want that. I want someone to hold my arms up when I can’t do it any longer, and I want to be the one who holds high the arms of those who can’t do it themselves.
I know people have had bad experiences with churches. I have too. I work with a lot of churches as a wedding coordinator and it astonishes me how rude people can be – people who call themselves Christians. I see it all the time. I catch myself thinking, “I wonder what made him want to be a priest? Did he have a passion to share the love of Christ when he started out? What happened along the way?” I think there are people who have forsaken the heart of the gospel to follow rules and tradition. But not all of us. And not all churches. So don’t give up on the Church because you had a bad experience. I had a bad experience at a restaurant last week, but I’m not going to stop eating out because of it. I’m just going to pick a different restaurant next time.
Here’s my challenge: If you’re in a church, be the Church. Be the body of Christ. Be like Christ. Love like Christ. When you’re focused on serving others and loving them, your own problems don’t seem so insurmountable. What are we here for anyway? To cross items off of our to-do lists or to make a difference. I’ll tell you what I’m here for: I’m here to make a difference for the Kingdom of God. “His kingdom in an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures through all generations.” (Psalm 145:13 NIV) That’s where I want to invest my time and energy.
If you’re not in a church, my challenge is this: Find one. Find a church where the focus is loving God and loving people. Those are the two greatest commandments. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Luke 10:27. If you’re in the area I highly recommend Bayside Community Church. We know what it means to love without judgment. And if you’re not in the area you can still check us out online at online.baysidecommunity.org
Bayside is actually starting a series this weekend called At the Movies. I’m super excited for it, because it means we get popcorn and soda in church! Never underestimate my love of food :) I’m also excited for the movie lineup: Rudy, Hunger Games 2, Frozen, and Kung Fu Panda 2. Each week we’re focusing on a different movie. You can check us out online or come to any of the campuses. Service times are Saturdays 4:30PM and 6:30 PM and Sundays 9AM, 10:30AM, and 12PM.