Perhaps one of the hardest parts of moving has been the search for a new church to call home. After visiting several churches, my husband and I recently went to a service that felt more right, not a perfect fit, just a better fit than the ones we’ve visited already.
It wasn’t because of the Christian pop rock concert that blared on stage as we took our seats. I’ve been to my share of loud concerts (probably more than my share, as my brother played in a rock band when I was in high school, and I went to as many of his shows as I could, and I still love to go hear live music). But this was too loud for my increasingly tender ears, a sad reminder I’m not as young as I used to be. The band tucked in a traditional hymn, though, and my spirit lifted a nudge.
The preacher was warm and inviting, delivering a strong sermon with a deprecating sense of humor. We took communion, the first communion my husband and I have had since arriving here in December. Too long to fast from such an important sacrament.
We decided we’d go back again.
My husband was away this past weekend, but we talked shortly before the service time, and he encouraged me to go, even though I’d be going by myself. I went but arrived late, not a surprise for those of you who know me. But this lateness was intentional—I was hoping to miss some of the loud music at the beginning.
Shortly after I arrived, a young guy with an old beard stood up and welcomed us, offered up a prayer, ushered us in to a time of worship. And then it happened. He picked up a banjo and sat down with the rest of the band.
A banjo. The part of my heart that so loves bluegrass sat up and payed attention, hopeful about what was to come. Romans 5:5 promises, “and hope does not disappoint.” The band launched into one of my favorite bluegrass gospel songs, I’ll Fly Away. I sang as loud as anyone around me, maybe louder.
The sermon, part of an ongoing series about the names of God, focused on the story of Abraham, Isaac and the provision of a ram in the bushes following God’s test of Abraham’s faith. In that story, Abraham named God as Jehovah-Jireh, the God Who Provides.
God provided me with what I needed to feel more at home at this church, beginning with a few chords from a banjo and a familiar, well-loved song.
God showed off a little more, then. The old-beard young guy invited us to take a gift at the end of the service, to remind us that we are meant to find ways to be a blessing to others. The gift? Balm (and an arrow loosed toward the heart) for this gardening girl:
Did the church know how much this tiny clay pot with seeds and soil would mean to me?
I’m excited to see what these seeds become, but the gift has already been a blessing.
Are you struggling to find a church where you feel you belong? Let me encourage you to keep trying. You may have to try many different churches, and you may have to try a lot of services at the same church before you find a home.
If you want to understand better the “why” of belonging as much as the “how” of belonging to a church community, I encourage you to read Lessons in Belonging by Erin Lane. I read this right after moving, and it helped remind me that I was going to have to do more than just sit in strange pew after strange pew but that the journey was so worth the effort.
She approaches the whole topic of belonging to church in an honest, funny, sometimes breathtaking way. She quotes Emily Dickinson in the book, “Tell the truth, but tell it slant.” I could have highlighted truths told slant on every page of her book. Read it, and you may just find it’s the kick in the pants you need to start visiting churches. And who knows what ways Jehovah-Jireh will show up and show off by providing precisely what you need to get your heart to open up to the new possibilities of church?