Last night my church had a worship night. Now I may be spoiled here and I am, but my church worship team is talented. I don’t mean they can sing and play instruments. I mean they are the anointed talented… professionals.
I’ve been to churches where the worship team sings at me. I’m not invited into the worship. I have to force myself into the worship instead. Those people are talented, too. Yet it’s clear they are on display, not God.
There are other worship teams at a church I used to go to, too, and it was a competition of who got to be on stage that weekend. Those icky feelings were felt in the pews and I felt it. It somehow diminished the worship experience.
But last night, the church I get to call home, had a worship night. I should have been amped up to go, but I wasn’t. This past week I ran everywhere around Southwest Ohio it seemed. From appointments, getting my son ready for his fall retreat, celebrating my daughter’s birthday, doing errands, I wasn’t home much. It was Sunday. I just wanted my Sunday routine.
Alas something in me begrudgingly decided to just go.
I went alone.
No one in my house wanted to go. That was a huge obstacle for me and reminded me of a time when I used to go to church alone for years. Actually it was over a decade. I sat in a pew by myself every single Sunday. I’d see women with their husbands and kids and seemingly all on the same spiritual page. Men leading their wives and children under the authority of Jesus and I was jealous.
So last night because no one else wanted to go, I felt bitterness creep in. Okay that’s a lie. It didn’t creep in, rather, it made a stomping entrance into my heart.
Bitterness causes me to disconnect from my husband and find him on the opposite side as me. The enemy. Is this true? No, but that’s how it feels when bitterness creeps in.
I pulled into the parking lot of the church already emotional and wondering if I made the wrong decisions. (Hint: it’s never a wrong decision to be walking into church.)
Of course, I was fifteen minutes early because punctuality is respect in my book. I got my seat and realized no one was sitting near me for awhile. Then an older gentleman asked if he could sneak past me- Hello Midwest slang. He sat 3 seats to my left. I was on the aisle on the second row from the front.
I was literally alone in my pew… just like I was all those lonely years ago.
I got very emotional and just ignored it by texting my cousin about our next trip together. Then the lights dimmed and the music started.
At first it was just fun and energizing, then the Holy Spirit got to work.
It was like I was pulled out of the narrowness that bitterness creates and I looked at myself as a whole. In that huge worship center with probably just under one thousand multigenerational souls represented, I was just one of the voices singing. Just one soul. That my one soul got to be in that space and present with the Holy Spirit that evening simply worshiping from my inner most being.
Would I have felt that comfortable if my husband was there? I don’t know.
The worship pastor paused about half way through the set and gave a message.
A message that proved I needed to be there.
He talked about how in Matthew 11 Jesus talks about the yoke and burden and rest. He talked about how there are time we are passionate about something but our passion is not what God would have us be focused on and we’re pursuing all our time and energy into something that is not what God wants us to be doing.
He talked about how that feels- like we’re struggling to strive more and more and more and yet we get no where. We are left anxious, exhausted, emotional, and could get sick.
He was talking to me.
He talked about how when we are yoked with Jesus, we do get rest because the burdens we are carrying are the ones God wants to share and take off our shoulders. They are the burdens that he’s using to teach us steadfastness in the faith or live out our faith. But then he brought up that question again- are the burdens I’m carrying those Jesus wants me to have or are they self-made?
If I’m honest, in my business I’ve made a lot of messy burdens that aren’t mine, at least right now. I’m an overachiever. I love to provide. I love to serve. I get joy out of it. So I’m always thinking of the next best thing for my members and clients.
I’ve also out of obligation kept too many clients on my schedule in the past and run myself empty to serve them at the cost of my children and marriage.
I’ve accepted clients on my schedule who have used me. Yelled at me. And didn’t treat me with respect. That was me not valuing myself nor my dignity.
Those behaviors of mine were sinful. Those decisions to not include God into my business, who I work with, etc is sinful. It’s me taking off the yoke and choosing my own path and ego to save all the people from themselves… when I wasn’t even saving myself from myself.
How many times do we take that yoke off and dabble over in something just off to the side? It starts with good intentions, but the path to hell is paved with good intentions, isn’t it?
Last night, with hands raised, I realized after all this time God still pursues me alone in the pew, because it is alone I came into this world and alone I’ll leave.
What an honor it is to serve a God who loves me through it all.
In honoring God and his boundaries for my life,
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