I’ve been working through this post for over a week now and had it named before walking into the sanctuary for worship on Sunday morning. So, imagine my surprise when the sermon title included the word ‘discern.’ Since I started blogging last June, I’ve noticed such connections between what I’m writing about and the world around me. I think I’m more aware of my walk and am carefully listening. Sunday was just another example of God’s affirmation of what He’s already been laying on my heart.
I left a worship service last month in tears and when my mom asked me what was wrong, I simply said ‘I want more.’ It was all I could think of to put those sad feelings into words. More what? More out of life? More from my faith journey? More excitement, more of an understanding of what God wants for me, more risk-taking? Is there something about being in your mid-to-late 30s that makes you restless, yearn for change, and seek to understand who you are and what life is all about? This is where I’m at and I have several close friends who are also seeking and wanting and discerning. For me, this awakening has occurred over recent months as my focus on the guy I’ve been interested in has shifted back to center. My attention is now on who I am, what I seek, and where God is leading me.
So this is the question I’ve been asking myself this week: Does my church meet all of my spiritual needs? Do I continue to stay there just because it’s familiar? When is it time to move on? I’ve heard it’s best to leave a place when times are still good, leaving you with fond memories, free from drama and angst. But, the grass isn’t always greener elsewhere. Sometimes, it’s just different grass. Then again, I don’t know if I’m necessarily looking for the grass to be greener. I do know that I have a craving that’s not being satisfied. God wants me to stretch and grow and meet new people. To engage in new experiences where He speaks to me in new ways.
A part of me feels like I’m running. It’s like I’m giving up on a long-time relationship and instead of working through it and accepting that we’re all flawed, sin-filled human beings, I just feel like running away to newness. No organization is perfect, but for how long do I continue to stay put? What if I just want a change? It’s so easy for me to become stagnant and just go through the motions in a place that’s so familiar. I should always be looking to evolve and change and take risks. God doesn’t want me to fall into a rut.
I’m consistently growing in my faith alongside a community of believers. But, does that mean that I’m supposed to stay at the same church for 5, 10, 20 years? I used to think it did, but now I’m not so sure that’s God’s plan for me. I’m feeling led not to completely let go of my church, but to explore what else is out there. Nothing drastic at this moment, just an undeniable stirring that I can’t ignore. To look for those gaps in my spiritual life that I desperately need filled. Just the other evening, a friend shared that she and her husband stayed with their former congregation 21 years longer than they should have. 21 years! That’s a mighty long time. I feel challenged and excited to explore other options. Even if it leads me right back to my current church, the process of discerning and investigating is part of my faith journey and I will grow because of it.
I’m a list-maker. So, I wrote down all of the things that fulfill me at my current church and what I’m still seeking. Do I try a worship service at a nondenominational church? Do I see what Sunday School classes are offered at a different church? Do I visit a community Bible study to see what it’s all about? For the moment, do I continue to stay active in my current congregation? The answer to all of these questions is yes.
These are the things that are on my heart this week. I hold many leadership positions in my church, so the decision to up and leave is not going to occur anytime soon. Circumstances change, people change, I change. I have not taken any actions towards moving on, but I am certainly open to God’s leading to try other worship services or explore Bible studies outside of my congregation. Please pray for me as I pray for you, dear friends. We all seek to be filled.
“Dear God, thank you for princesses and hair bows and toys and glitter paint and books and Mommy and Daddy and shoes and bikes. God, thank you for everything! Amen.” – Piper, age 4
My prayer life has never been very strong. I’m great at saying grace at a meal and quick “Help, Lord!” and “Thank you, God!” moments during the day, but settling myself to pray for even a short period of time is not my strength. But, I find that I’ve been talking to God a lot lately. I’ve been praying to God most evenings right before falling asleep. It’s the last thing I do before my head hits the pillow. I turn off my bedside lamp, sit cross-legged in the middle of my bed and talk to God…out loud. That’s really all praying is, isn’t it? Talking to God? I talk to God out loud, as if I’m having a conversation with another person. I used to think my prayers needed to ‘sound good’ and carry the same formality I experience in Sunday morning worship services. That the only way to pray was to rehearse and use ‘big’ words. But, praying is just being real. I mean, God already knows what I’m going to say anyway, doesn’t He? When I stopped putting pressure on myself to have perfectly worded prayers, I realized how organic and unrehearsed and even messy my prayers can be. They’re authentic and beautiful and exactly the way God wants me to talk to Him.
In my prayers each night, I first thank God for all of the joys from the day. Even when I think I’ve had the most ordinary day, reflecting on specific events and interactions helps me remember small moments that made that day unique. I often take these gifts for granted, but God lives in the ordinary. These moments are the very essence of God at work in my life. Pausing to recognize them has been very powerful. For keeping me safe on the road; for a productive day at work; for a sweet note from a friend; for the blessing of making music; for time set apart to relax and recharge. This is a time of praise; a time of worship. Prayer is worship. Laying this foundation of gratefulness helps to center me and see God at work in my life.
I then transition to prayers for others and concerns in my own life. Who in my life has a prayer concern? Who has God placed on my heart? What am I struggling with? Doing this at bedtime is wonderful because after I say my amens and my head hits the pillow, my prayers are repeated in my head as I drift off to sleep. I breathe them in and out. Repeating prayers for peace and healing for loved ones and their loved ones brings me comfort as I drift off to dreamland. I feel most connected to God during these moments in my prayer time.
I’ve painted a beautiful picture here, but this is not an every-night occurrence for me and the length of my prayers varies greatly from one night to the next. I’m talking to God more than I used to, though, which is the goal. Some nights I’m just so tired and can barely utter an ‘amen,’ let alone reflect on my thanksgivings and burdens from the day. At these times I just check in and tell God that I’m tired, pray for a good night’s sleep and for renewed energy to greet me the next morning. Some nights I don’t know what to say about a person or situation. I simply bring it forth as a prayer request and tell God that this person or situation is on my heart and I just wanted to tell Him that. I think He gets it. I think He understands me even when I pray and can’t find any words to pray with. I think praying through sighs and tears and balled up fists are just as powerful as having the rights words to express what I want to say. Often, this is when I’m being my most honest. That’s what God wants. Honesty. Authenticity. All of me. What a blessing that He understands me no matter how I communicate with him.