Lessons I learned in church...
My first church is where I learned Who is the Lord. It is the church where He called me to be His own. It is the church where I was baptized on April 4, 1974. I have mixed feelings about that church. Because it was the first church in my memory, I have very stressful memories of being left in the church nursery at the ages of four, five, or six. I did NOT like being away from my mother and I can still feel that anxiety of seeing her walk away from me down that hall. I remember playing with toys and other boys and girls but always wishing for her to come back soon. I remember Vacation Bible School fondly and I still remember hammering pictures onto a leather bracelet in the very hot field next door to the church and drinking cold red Kool-Aid with our snacks. I remember the smell of that place, the look of it, and the sound of it. I loved it there... when I wasn't in Sunday School or the nursery!
My next church is the church where I have spent the majority of my Christian life. It is a 'mega church' by anyone's definition. I was in a youth group there, I taught Sunday School there, dedicated my children there, served on committee after committee there, headed up teams for Vacation Bible School there... well, you get the picture. I was as involved as anyone can be. There was a time between high school and motherhood where I fell away from the church. This time away included four years in Florida. The Lord was with me through it all. When He called me to Himself and called us back to our hometown, this was the church where we returned. He was always there with me - guiding and directing my every step.
After I got married, we moved a state away and started a family. As little Flibby was born, the Lord called me to Himself and He finally became my first love! That was a huge 'marker' because the Lord has done amazing things with me since then! During our time in Florida, away from all our family and friends, the Lord began to show me that He was sufficient to meet all my needs. He knit my sweet husband and I together in a way that wouldn't have been possible if we still lived in our hometown. We truly became 'one flesh' during that time. Though I was as homesick as homesick can be, I wouldn't trade that time for anything! I think He pulled us away so that He could begin the journey into making us what He purposed for us to be. We began to attend a 'mega church' in Florida that reintroduced us both to the Lord and brought Him into first place in our hearts.
After four years in Florida, we were blessed to be able to come back home. We went back to the first 'mega church' mentioned above with our little Flibby and baby Miss Poppins in tow. That's when I began the work of all good Christian mothers... church work! I worked my fingers to the bone on every committee, classroom, board and ministry team I could find. I even taught preschool there so I could be close to my children while giving them the best in 'Christian education'. This time of church service taught me humility. I learned how much I loved 'church'. It was a good and satisfying time of fellowship with believers but, boy, did I have a lot to learn!
We became somewhat discontent over time with meatless sermons and lukewarm worship. We began to ask, "Is this all there is?" "Is this what the victorious Christian life is all about?" In our quest to find answers to these questions, Mr. P began to work in the media ministry of another church... one where we saw dynamic worship and meaty sermons preached from the Word! This was our introduction to expositional preaching! It was fabulous! We left 'mega church' number one and joined 'mega church' number two. This is the church where the Lord taught us to worship. He taught us how to study our Bibles. He taught us to break with men's tradition. It was such a special time of deep growth in my love for the Lord! We still had a lot to learn. Flibby was coming up on the age of the youth group. We looked at the youth group and the Lord was whispering into our hearts about His plan for discipleship. The youth group didn't fit. We decided to bring Flibby with us to our Sunday School. It was terrific! We all loved it! Then Miss Poppins realized she was missing something so she wanted to come. To all of our amazements, they both understood the very deep doctrinal teachings of our wonderful teacher! I thought it would be over their heads. Quite the contrary! Unfortunately, during this time, the church began to take a stand on having children in the worship service. They banned small children from the service. This upset me so much that I don't believe I ever worshiped in that church again. We stayed for a number of months after that but it was difficult.
So, we left that church and went to a medium sized church with a family integrated Sunday School. We just loved that! Taking the lessons we had learned from having our children with us and being able to bring them to fruition in an atmosphere of like minded families was so sweet! At this church the Lord taught me what it means to disciple my children. He taught me the value of being family integrated in our study of God's Word, in worship, and in Christian service. He cemented in our minds why this is right and He gave us a clear and firm conviction in this area. It was a valuable time of growth for us in our doctrinal beliefs. Once again, the church came up against us and disbanded the family integrated class.
We left that church and went to a very small church that was just getting started. This church taught me about relationships. I had grown up in a 'mega church' and until we joined this small church, I had never even had a conversation with any of my pastors! How sad is that? I thought that was normal! This church taught me the meaning of a church family. It taught me the power of accountability. It taught me the value of friendships and like mindedness! I loved what I found there! But, like all the other churches before it, the pastor came up against having our children with us in worship.
Four of the families left this church and we are now starting a new work! Look how far we've come! To think if you had told me way back at 'mega church' number one where my focus was on all my "church work"... where I thought my work for the Lord was more important than my relationship with Him... that I would be happy in a living room, worshiping with my family, worshiping with my dearest friends and growing in my relationship with the Lord, I would have probably chuckled at the silliness of it all. I had no idea that fulfillment in my Christian walk comes through knowing my Savior and not from changing diapers in the church nursery. It comes from discipling my children, not from discipling others children. It comes from accountability of a close church family, not from idle chatter with church acquaintances. It is so much deeper and so much richer and so much more meaningful and satisfying than I ever thought possible! Oh, how I love the Lord now! I have never loved Him like I love Him now!
And, where am I today, you ask. I have not arrived... in fact, I only know now how far away I truly am! Now we are studying what it means to be a Reformed Baptist. I am just now learning why I believe what I believe. It's not enough to say 'my Sunday School teacher said so' anymore. I am, for the first time, learning for myself what the Scriptures say... and I'm finding that it's not at all what I've been taught from the many pulpits over the years. That's disconcerting but exciting at the same time! He is teaching us to lean on His Word and not the word of a preacher or teacher. He is teaching us to stand up for our conviction and has given us many opportunities to defend our position thus cementing those convictions firmly in our hearts. The Lord is working in our hearts continuously!
I am awed and amazed when I look back over everything He has done in my heart and life. I am awed and amazed at how He has changed me. He has a purpose in the journey! It's a good purpose and I'm enjoying every minute of it!