My pastor once said that choosing a church was a little like getting married: You don’t hop around from one to the next; You “date” the same one for a while, and then you commit. But how do you handle doubts about the one you chose?
When I first came to my church I knew that it was different from the denomination I’d grown up in. But our core beliefs were the same, and the teaching was the best I’d ever heard, and the people were good and kind. So I stayed and became a member; I committed; I took vows.
Through the years since, I’ve grown in two significant ways: Closer to the people of my church, and farther from its denominational doctrines. And divergent growth is painful.
Our core beliefs are still the same, the teaching is still the best I’ve ever heard, and the people are not only good and kind– they have become my family. But where I could once shrug off differences that didn’t feel big to me, I now have a burden I can’t ignore.
I love and am well loved by my church– I don’t know how I could ever leave. And sometimes I don’t know how I can stay. These differences hurt, and I don’t want church to mean hurt.
I carry in my purse a small, plain wooden cross, given out at my church’s building dedication. A dear older member lovingly carved them from the same wood used to build the handsome exposed beams of our sanctuary. And to me, this means church.
A few years ago, this same dear member asked me to sing at his wife’s memorial, and when I did, his pained eyes crinkled with gratitude. And to me, this means church. Just last week, this same dear member laid in a hospital bed, and other members visited and brought comfort. And to me, this means church.
I carry that cross in my purse because it is a treasure.
It means to me what every cross means to every Christian– sacrifice, redemption, love. But this simple, hand hewn cross in particular also means church to me, and its meaning is so full I can hardly believe it fits in my purse’s zippered pocket.
How do you know when to stay or when to go?