Where I grew up in Ohio, we lived right down a little hill from our church. In fact, it was an eight-block walk to church, which I know because Phil and I attended our church school for eight years and walked that hill every day (except when Dad would drive us on harsh winter mornings).
I loved Immaculate Conception Church and the IC School; they felt like home. And I think that one really important reason they felt so familiar and comfortable to me was that my parents were involved at church, so we were there a lot and knew many of the other families. That feeling of not just going to church but belonging there left a strong impression on me and is something that I have searched for ever since moving away from my hometown.
Matt and I have tried to get involved at each of the few churches we’ve attended over the years. But signing up to help with various ministries just wasn’t leading to those feelings of belonging that we sought. I can remember being mystified one day at our last church when, after attending several meetings and having personal conversations with a woman who led a ministry I was in, I then walked into another meeting and she acted as though she was just meeting me! I was crestfallen.
And it made me rethink things.
So I decided to take a harder look at why this had worked for my parents but wasn’t producing the same effect for us. Beside one obvious difference—which is that my parents had children enrolled at the school, allowing them to meet the other parents and bond over that commonality—I realized there was something else. My parents didn’t just sign up to assist with a ministry, they became leaders. And they didn’t just help with events, they took advantage of spiritual enrichment opportunities like bible studies and retreat weekends, too.
In other words, they were all in. They made themselves both physically available and emotionally vulnerable to the other people of that church. And isn’t that what any good relationship requires? You have to put yourself out there to get to the good stuff.
I’ve wished for a long time that I had a place like “Cheers,” where everybody knew my name. But I had to face the fact that the other characters didn’t call out Norm’s name when he arrived just because he showed up to drink beer. He had to invest…by sitting on that same bar stool day after day, by telling his stories and listening to theirs and by being there for them.
So, that’s the long version of why I went to the women’s retreat at our church earlier this month. Honestly, I almost didn’t go because I wasn’t sure I wanted to give up a whole Saturday for it. But then I remembered my plan to follow my parents’ example and go all in. I met several really wonderful women from my church. And it was truly a lovely day. Literally. We spent the time talking and meditating on this breathtaking bit of scripture about love:
Brothers and sisters:
Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.
But I shall show you a still more excellent way.
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated,
it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Cor 12:31-13:13
And yes, I have taken on the lead role in one of our ministries as well. But that’s a story I’ll save for another day…perhaps over a frosty mug.
I dug deep in my stash and created this layout using older products from BasicGrey, K&Company, Making Memories and My Mind’s Eye. I also used Artful Delight’s February sketch and am entering this in their sketch challenge.