Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Or will he…
Praise the Lord, church kids! As a fellow church kid, I can tell you all about my experience growing up as a southern Baptist. (Shoutout to West Trinity Baptist Church in historic Selma, Alabama!) My grandparents raised me, so church was a normal thing. It was a requirement, actually. My grandmother usually didn’t miss a Sunday and you’d better believe she had me right there with her-- poofy, tulle laden dress, shiny, strappy shoes, lace adorned socks, and giant bow, in that order! (Mama Dee’s voice! Lol!)
On the rare occasion that she didn’t go, she sent me with my great-grandmother because, you already know, she didn’t miss a Sunday, period. Involvement in church was not optional when we became old enough. My grandma made sure my cousins and I participated in some sort of ministry. There was Sunday school, the Baptist Convention’s Summer Retreat and the Usher Board. This went on until my grandmother figured out one very important detail: I could sing. She put me in the youth choir faster than she could say “amen.” I sang my sweet baby buns off until I graduated from high school. Then, I went off to college and didn’t look back. My church attendance slowly tapered off.
On my journey to self discovery, I have to say, I don’t visit or participate in congregated worship often. I’ve participated in bible study groups and I go sometimes, usually for special occasions, but that’s about it. Even though I’m not a steady church goer, I don’t feel that I’ve departed from the things I was taught. So, I get confused when people are critical of my participation, or lack there of, in religious practices. I often hear things like:
1. “What do you mean ‘you don’t do church?’ Do you believe in God?”
2. “If you don’t get into the word, something bad is going to happen to you.”
3. “God said ‘assemble yourselves’! Do you want to go to hell?”
Here are my thoughts:
For one, we were born imperfect, but God still loves us. Immensely. He always has and he probably always will. Even though we don’t deserve it. I do believe we are born good and taught bad, but regardless, we are loved by our creator. We are not immune to bad, so we do bad. Often. However, in the grand scheme of God’s love for us, none of that matters. We are not blessed by God because of the good we’ve done, so WHEN bad things happen, we should know it’s not because of the bad we’ve done.
Often times, I think people equate the ability to quote the bible with actually LIVING the bible. This is absolutely untrue and a bit delusional. I have a very general idea of what God expects from me:
Love him- Love God first, above all else. He is a jealous God. We are made in his image. (which explains why we are often jealous and protective of those we truly love.) He wants to be first. Put him first.
Love his people- He made each and every one of us and he loves each and every one of us. He expects the same from us to each other. We don’t have to like each other, but we are required to love each other to the best of our ability.
For me, attendance at church is so far down on the list of things that God requires. Don’t get me wrong, nothing wrong with church. Sometimes, I feel myself needing to go because there’s something in me telling me that God has something special to tell me that I can only hear at the alter. When I get that feeling, I go, I receive the word, and I understand why he led me there. BUT, God does not only speak at the alter. He speaks to me everywhere. Just because another person doesn’t see you at church or hear you quoting scriptures doesn’t mean you don’t have a relationship with God. Just because a person can’t hear your prayers or see your worship doesn’t mean you don’t do it.
These things definitely don’t give another the right to try and gauge what your relationship with God looks like. It’s a SACRED relationship. It is the deepest, most intimate relationship you could ever have and it’s not for the world to judge. Rather, it is for the world to see in your action or the type of life you lead. Do you put God first in all you do? Do you give thanks and credit to him for the favor over your life? How do you treat others? Do you give your best shot at being the best kind of human being you could possibly be?
If church is your thing, cool. Stick with it. Your faith is what you make it. It’s what makes you feel good and that’s okay. Don’t judge others if their rituals don’t look the same as yours. If church isn’t your thing, that’s okay too. No need to feel pressured. As long as you’re growing in your faith and God is visible in your spirit, who could judge you besides God himself? Your faith and relationship with God is just that...YOURS.
Until next time, stay faithful and protect your magic….