It’s been three weeks since I last went to church. This is the longest streak of not going to church that I’ve ever had (since becoming a Christian) and honestly, I’m a little bummed out. Sure, it’s kind of a self-inflicted wound when you work so much that you’re either scheduled for a shift on Sunday morning or you’re so exhausted that you need the rest. But church, not so long ago, used to be a major part of my every-day life – not just Sunday morning. Yet now it isn’t.
As I have come to find out the hard way, being apart from a church community will leave you very alone. If it wasn’t for my roommates and my occasional visits to Cross Training (an athlete’s ministry) I probably wouldn’t have any contact with fellow believers at all. I might run into an old friend from Calvary or CCF at some point, but brief encounters are not enough to sustain one’s spiritual life. We need family.
This hit me hard late last night. Within the last five days I’ve worked 49 hours – 33 ½ of which have come in the last three days. Safe to say I’m a little exhausted. My roommates are staying up in Portland for Spring Break and have been gone since Tuesday night. So last night I was physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually drained and had no one to hang out with. Not sure if it was just the stress, the exhaustion, the loneliness, or all the above, but I wept last night.
A few years ago I lived with 8 other guys. No matter what time of day it was or which week of school we were in, there was always something going on. A birthday party, a movie night, a beer night – whatever – there was never not something to do. I miss those days because I was hardly ever alone. And with that many guys (all of whom were involved with a church in some way) there was also always someone to talk to about spiritual stuff. Once again, I didn’t have that last night.
I could go on to talk about how much I miss my close friends from high school, Calvary Fellowship, my brothers and sisters, or even the dorms, but you see my point: You can’t go very far in life without family and friends. You might think you’re happy, but if you’re constantly alone, at some point you’re going to realize your happiness was simply a façade. Money, possessions, reputations all mean nothing when it comes to receiving love. They can’t be there for you when you have a rough day at work; they can’t take away whatever painful childhood memories you may have; and they definitely cannot give you any kind of peace. People, however, can.
No, I’m not saying we don’t need God; I’m saying the exact opposite. We do need God – He’s the one who provides everything we have, even the stuff we thought we earned for ourselves. But we also need people, which is why the church exists. It’s God moving through His people – His faithful children – to bring about His kingdom of peace.
It doesn’t really help me that I’m sort of without a church home. Yeah, I have plenty of friends attending various God-loving churches throughout Eugene, but no matter where I go I’m still going to feel like a guest instead of a member (and by “member” I mean a family member; not an official “member” of a church). And yet this is the exact thing God is challenging me with: Make new friends and become part of a new family. In years past, I had it easy, but now is a season of life where I have to work a lot to keep my faith in God strong and active.
It’s like Donald Miller says in Blue Like Jazz; if we were alone, we’d go crazy. If we didn’t have someone to talk to, someone to open up to, someone to listen to, someone to pray with, or someone to challenge us, we’d become lost within ourselves. And we would never change.
Friendships and relationships are difficult to make and keep, but without them, we’d have no real life at all. Our hearts might still beat, our lungs would still breathe, but there would be no real, genuine rest. We’d have days off and be able to sleep in, but rest isn’t simply a break from work, although that helps. Rest is a Person and His family. It is God and His children – Christ and His body. Even if we were homeless and had only the clothes on our backs, if we have Christ and His church, we’d still have everything.