It was the first Sunday of December. Fall 2018 was very busy and demanding around Crossings, and we were getting ready to head into a season that would make the fall season look like a stroll in the park.
So I took the Sunday right after Thanksgiving off and stayed home.
Yep. You heard me. We skipped church. One of the very gifted communicators on my staff handled the message for all the services. When I’m not speaking on the weekend at Crossings, I’m usually either out of town or sitting on the back row in a few of our services.
Not this particular Sunday.
I needed a break. I needed to be quiet. I needed to avoid conversations. I needed to avoid being in a place where I was evaluating how things were going around the building or in one of our seven services.
Thankfully, Kim stayed home with me. Staying home is harder for her to do than it is for me, but we needed it. We both really enjoyed our day together.
Honestly, I couldn’t make that a habit; we are wired to need to gather with other believers–other sheep, others in our family–to worship and learn together. We need to gather so we can encourage those who are hurting and celebrate with those who’ve had a breakthrough with God. But this time, I somewhat forced myself to stay home by the fire, a good book in my hands, in a quiet house.
We finally ventured out around noon. Due to the fear of awkwardness if we were to run into members of our church family, we decided to find a drive-through and eat in the car. We splurged and treated ourselves to a great local hamburger and fries and sat in the car listening to Christmas music, parked in front of the restaurant facing the China Buffet and Hooters. Quite a glamorous moment! I had pretty much rolled out of bed, brushed my teeth, and put on comfortable clothes and a hat to hide my unwashed hair. It was ugly!
Later in the day, I realized how relaxed I was. Perhaps I had experienced a “Sabbath?” It occurred to me that I had been in a relaxed mode most of the day.
What if I did more of this on Saturday? What if I woke up on Sunday relaxed, refreshed, and eager to get to church to worship with others, encourage the broken, celebrate the victories, and remind the lonely they are not alone?
What might happen if after church I stayed in “Sabbath” mode? What might happen if we give ourselves time for the experience of the morning to sink in, stir our souls, and give thought to what might need to change in our lives?
On the day I skipped church, I realized that the problem with my schedule had little to do with Sunday morning; it had everything to do with how I prepared for a morning of worship, teaching, connecting with others, and loving others as we’ve been loved. It had everything to do with not squeezing God into a hectic schedule, having a lengthy to-do list on my mind, or being focused on things other than my love for God, his love for me, and how I might live in that truth.
I encourage you to prepare for Sunday by taking some time to breathe, think, pray, and meditate before you wake up and head to church. After church, give your mind, body, and spirit time to reflect on those things that may have passed through your mind during your time with the church family.
Give it a try some weekend. Start on Saturday: slow down and start preparing to worship and focus on what is most important in life. Plan to go to church on Sunday morning not only planning to bring your best to God in worship, but to have a deep sense of both gratitude and anticipation of what he might send through your mind as you open your heart and fully engage with him.
There are times someone will say, “Where is God? Has he forgotten me?” No, he hasn’t. God is right by your side, closer than you can imagine. We are too preoccupied and living with cluttered minds which prevent us from knowing he’s with us or even being able to sense his presence.
Perhaps a good thing to pray is: “Father, please help me clear my mind and open my heart that I may see you and hear your voice.”
Be careful what you ask God for. He seems to frequently answer these kinds of requests.