Yes, You CAN Go Back to Church Again

Around 7 years ago, my husband and I made the decision to leave the Church that I’ve known as home for over 30 years. Mistakes were made on both sides. Right or wrong, whose fault it was is irrelevant. We no longer felt peace and instead of God’s presence we went there salty and feeling betrayed. So, in everyone’s best interests, we left.
The morals & doctrine there have always been & will always be sound. When our youngest started 6th grade, he wanted to attend the youth group there. I happily took him every Wednesday. We did not bad mouth the congregation. We never said a word. We simply left. I felt there would be no issue with him attending and there wasn’t.
Every year since then, he’s participated in their Fine Arts program, doing a short sermon. Every year, we go to support him. We’d smile nice and because my mom & aunt still attended, we’d exchange pleasantries with their friends. No one had ever called and asked what had become of us. A few people asked my mom or aunt, but, no one ever called me. I was hurt. I harbored it in my heart and throw a lot of meaningless jabs at the people (mentally, not verbally). The pastoral staff had changed- the senior pastor left. The associate became the senior.
At the Fine Arts event, the new pastor’s wife came up to me and hugged me. Genuinely. Sincerely hugged me. I was confused.

I had honestly excepted that no one, not one single person there, cared. All the mission trips, all the community service, prayer meetings and handshakes had all been a charade in my mind. I shut down. I still love Jesus with all my heart. But, after putting in 30 years with people I genuinely loved and thought loved me back, well, it was too much to bear. I didn’t even have an official hand in the split that had occurred. Why had no one called me?
I considered other churches, even went to a few. None of them carried the same dynamic that my church had. So, fast forward to this past Easter Sunday. The Fine Arts event had just occurred. My son, having just come home from a 3 day Youth/Arts Convention, had been spiritually revived. He was practically glowing, having been truly ministered to by the music and leaders there. He expressed to us that despite all the ‘religious’ activities he was still currently involved in, he needed more. He wanted to go to our church Sunday for Easter.
My husband was less than enthusiastic. I was stunned, but, I can’t stand before My God at the end of my life and justify not taking my child to church when he asked to go. So, I agreed. I would take him. You see, that hug changed everything. Everything I had concocted in my head, every ‘what if’, every imagined conversation was gone. I felt sincerity in that hug. I was baffled, but steadfast and I took him.
Out of pure stubbornness, I didn’t ‘dress up’. I decided that if I wasn’t welcome there anyway, why the heck should I care what I wore. I’d spent 3 decades primping and fussing over every detail. Now, me, my sneakers and jeans were going. No new Easter dress *gasp*! So, my son wore what he always wore as his father bid us a ‘Good luck’. I hung my handicapped placard on the rearview mirror and took a parking space near the door. Inwardly, I’d decided that the first person who said ‘Where ya been?’ was a cue for us to jump back in the truck and go home. I told my son as much.
A deep breath later, I limped towards the open doors and…..was greeted by a smiling face that I didn’t know. She handed me a bulletin and never once looked down at my old sneakers. Next, a man I’ve know for 20 years swept me up in a big bear hug and said hi. A few more pats on the back and I’d forgotten the scenario I’d dreamt up about what was ‘most likely’ going to happen. More hugs, more handshakes, and then, the new senior pastor walked up. Wishing us a blessed Resurrection Sunday and a ‘hi buddy’ to my son and my dumbfounded shelf ended up in a pew sitting next to my aunt.
Before I knew it we were all singing, the sermon given, and it was over. I know I listened & sang. I know as we were exiting the church there were more handshakes and some ‘see you laters’. I probably had a stupid look on my face as I pulled the truck out of the parking lot. The rest of the day I couldn’t think of anything else, but what hadn’t happened. No one had been rude. No judgement, no backturns. Everything had been in my head or heart and was of my own making.
I learned a very valuable lesson that day. Sometimes there is a time limit on anger. Especially in regards to God’s people. Sometimes a change in the chain of command is the new change a church needs to go ‘out with the old’. But, most of all, just because you envision people acting a specific way doesn’t mean that they actually will act that way. Give them a chance. If it ends up badly, then it does. Living in the land of what if is a lonely place and is less important that what you may be missing if you simply give it another chance.

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