Three years ago today Churchyard Chick began her zig-zag journey, not knowing where it would take her. Because she often leaves the coop without a map, she sometimes becomes hopelessly lost on side roads and pig paths. However, she learns valuable lessons that way. What I shall call the first leg of her journey has been no exception.
Hurt and disillusioned by Sunday Smiles morphing into Monday Madness in the place she called her church, she ran away and hid for many moons. She delighted in calling herself “free range.” She spent many hours in worship and prayer and study on her own. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). Feeling very close to Him, she felt secure in her faith.
However, with the approach of Ash Wednesday, she began to feel the need to attend a place of worship once more. She needed to gather with other believers on that day. And thus began the search for a place of true worship.
To make a long story very short, she discovered that she did not quite fit in anywhere. She was too conservative for the liberals and too liberal for the conservatives. No doctrine seemed to have a place for the likes of her. What to do?
One Sunday she and her husband attended a Lutheran church where they were asked three times whether they were confirmed Lutherans and informed, albeit very politely, that they would not be allowed to receive communion. By this time, it didn’t even ruffle her feathers. That was just their way. It was on this day that she had an epiphany of sorts.
As the confirmed members of that group were receiving the elements, she thought about how God must be viewing the world-wide scene below. So many different factions, so many different rules, so many different ways of worshiping. But the core beliefs we all have in common. What must He be thinking? She had to smile. Not to presume to know His mind, but could he be touched that at least we were all trying to show Him we cared and wanted to honor Him in our feeble, bungling ways?
As much as she spouted off about being “free range” and criticized “the church” for what it has become, there were certain times that she needed the anchor of corporate worship. Eventually, she realized that the denomination from whence she came was probably the best fit for her after all.
Just as she had reached that conclusion, her husband accepted a position at another church, and so her days of wandering came to an end (in the physical sense). That did not preclude her from continuing to go free range in her thoughts. It still seemed like a viable option for those who were so inclined.
But then, she became a grandmother. And in a flash, everything changed. Suddenly, she wanted the promise that comes with infant baptism. She wanted her grandson to have the nurture and, yes, love, that Sunday School teachers bring. She longed for him to be surrounded by believers in Jesus Christ, even though flawed. She wanted him to have a “church home.”
Suddenly she felt like a hypocrite with all this free range stuff. Then she realized she had come full circle. She had been hurt, and she had run away. (How many others have done the same?) Tradition had become an ugly word (even though we treasure other time-honored traditions in our families). And, as always, she still had more questions than answers. But she knew it was time to go home. Even so, she would go home changed. She could not deny the lessons she had learned in her zig-zag journey. She had learned not to “worship” church or place so much emphasis on religion or tradition or ministers or rituals. She would be careful to worship and trust Christ alone. In this, she would always be free.
“The Church” is the Body of Christ, his followers, true believers. They can be found in every denomination. “Going to church” is indeed a misnomer. Church is not a building or a service or a meeting. Indeed, being the church is more important than being in church.
Today is my birthday; I am three years older and, hopefully, wiser, for my journey thus far. And now, I just need to be careful not to walk around in that same circle! There is more territory to explore. Ever zigging . . . always zagging . . . the journey continues . . .