When I became a Christian at the end of my sophomore year of high school a strange belief grew in my spirit.
It started after I noticed something happening before church. When my grandparents and I got there people were already doing something. Curious, I asked what. Bible study I was told.
Well, why aren’t we in Bible study? I thought.
We started going.
Then I noticed that they were discussing these Wednesday meetings for more bible study. I wanted in on that too.
The summer before my junior year was a great exploration for me. I was in the Word. I was going to church for every service I could get to. I even went to these really strange week-long events they had.
Then school started. Homework rolled in. Then band and chorus practices after school. Then concerts.
But what about church? I wanted to be in Bible study. I wanted to feed on the Word and fellowship with people who were like me. I was so alone at school now that I was a Christian. I was stuck in the belly of the beast. What could I do?
I decided then and there, if anything made me miss church, I didn’t want it. Nothing from school would keep me from church. Nothing from the world would keep me from the spiritual food I was starving for.
I missed a concert or two. I lost a letter-grade. I had a preacher’s wife toting me around Washington DC so I could make it to Sunday worship while I was on a band trip.
I never missed church.
Time went on… an on… I married. I started a family. I did missed church a time or two when I had strep throat, was in labor and the kids were puking.
As for anything else, if it made us miss church, we didn’t want it.
Then one of those children died. I wanted to die too. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to get dressed. I certainly didn’t want to go to church.
But that strange belief stirred deep inside of me. It grounded me. It propelled me.
“I must. I must go,” I said to myself. I had to go.
I had the excuse of all excuses. No one would ever question my absence. But I needed something more than a bullet-proof alibi. I needed relief. I was sunk in grief, drowning in depression and overwhelmed by a sorrow that taunted me in my sleep.
And I never missed church. I knew I couldn’t. It was crucial that I must not unravel the cords of safety that the fellowship of God’s people provided me.
I believed Satan would win.
If he could keep me from one service he could keep me from two. Then he could keep from as many as he wanted.
Every service or gathering I felt like I stood at a crossroads facing the decision of right or wrong, good or evil, my Savior or my enemy. If I stayed home I let the enemy win the daily battle. I refused to let him win. I refused to let him get even a small foot in the door to pull me away from my tribe.
I needed to grab Jesus’ hand and step.
Walking into church the first Sunday after Azaiah died took every piece of strength I had and the prayers of hundreds to carry me. As I walked down the long hallway to the sanctuary I felt like I was walking the plank. When I walked into that room I thought I would be overwhelmed by all the faces. I thought the waves of tears and pain intertwined with helplessness would sink me.
They didn’t sink me. They saved me.
It was those people who, if they could, would have caught every tear in a bottle. They would have bore my cross as their own every step. My church was my Jesus just they way they were called to be.
I knew the world was watching this Christian blogger/preacher’s wife/Sunday school teacher. Christians were watching. My kids were watching. They would see how I reacted. They would see what I did. I never wanted to lay one stone on the road of their excuses to neglect the meeting of saints.
Today, 5 years and 4 months have passed since my son’s death. I am still clinging to Jesus. I am still faithful to his church.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Mt. 16:18