This year began like many others. A review of the year that was and a look to what kind of year I wanted it to be. Coming into this year I realised within myself there was a sense of discontent with church. For many reasons I wasn’t feeling it with my current church and rather than jump ship, I instead opted to figure out why. I spent a lot of time examining the reasons that were lying beneath the surface issue of discontent.
There wasn’t a single issue that was driving this. Quite the opposite actually. There were many issues driving this discontent. But there was one that has taken me until now to fully understand.
And it seems so trivial.
Annoyingly (hear the sarcasm), my friends have transitioned. Over the last few years, they have coupled up or had a child and in a time span that felt very sudden, but in reality was months (maybe years) in the making, they were all making the change to the morning service. My pool of night time service buddies is dwindling.
Doing what I do best, I went into solution mode, toying with the idea of finding another church but, if I’m completely honest, that didn’t really feel right. Partly because I didn’t want to have to enter another season of making new friends and re-establishing myself and partly because I didn’t want to have to do that alone.
My other option is to change to the morning service. I know, it makes complete sense. So do my lazy Sunday mornings where I get to whittle away the hours reading or snoozing or watching youtube videos with a coffee in hand and a slice of smashed avo in the other. These Sunday mornings are deep down time, soul restoring and very precious to me.
But even that wasn’t the real reason I had been fighting going to church in the morning. Spending lazy Sunday evenings at home sounds just as inviting.
The real reason I have been fighting the morning service transition is the same reason I have entered so many different stages of life some what reluctantly.
I thought I would either transition to another church or into the morning service at my current church with a husband by my side.
There. I said it out loud.
(well kind of, writing is kind of saying it out loud).
I didn’t even realise that this thought was at the base of this wrestle until “I thought I would be doing that with my husband” randomly wafted through my brain and I was somehow aware enough to grab hold of the random thought and examine it. Upon further inspection, I was so surprised to realise this was the truth. This was what I was holding out for, this is what I was hoping would happen and because it wasn’t my reality, I was subconsciously and defiantly holding off making a change.
I was waiting for something external to happen to me to give me permission to change.
I was waiting for something external to me to make me happy with my church context again.
I came to realise that my issue wasn’t so much with my church, or that my friends had transitioned. It’s that I was still in the same place, waiting for someone to affect my world. When I found my husband then I would be eligible to transition to morning church. Then I would have hit a new stage of life.
Coming to this realisation brought with it not just revelation but freedom too.
I wholeheartedly embrace my single season. I have worked hard on my heart and mind to not wish away this time, to not become bitter about it, to not hold my ex’s responsible for it, to not constantly shake my fists at God asking why he hasn’t provided a husband. More specifically, I have worked hard to not let my unmet expectations, such as transitioning to the morning service because I now have a husband, turn from disappointment to bitterness to anger.
I didn’t even realise that this was an expectation that I had until I became aware of that thought.
Unmet expectations are cancerous to our faith in God. They eat away at our confidence that God is a good God and is capable of not just doing what He promises, but that He also cares about what we desire and is able to deliver on it. We think because He hasn’t clicked His fingers and given us what we want in the way we want it, that He either doesn’t care about us or that He is powerless to do something about it. So we get disappointed and we get angry and we shake our fists, all the while failing to realise that it’s our expectations that have led us here.
It took years for me to realise that it wasn’t that God didn’t care about my desires, rather it was my “ATM” approach to God and these desires that was the issue. If I just did the right thing, if I just played the Christian part right, if I said all the right things, then God would love me enough to deliver on what I wanted.
I am currently going through a process of undoing. I knew for years in my head that God loves me, but I truly am only now discovering that for real. That I don’t have to behave a certain way to win His affection. If something that I have asked of Him hasn’t made it’s way into my life yet, then it’s either a bad thing for me (so withholding it is an expression of His love) or He is working on it. I have also realised that this is how I have approached every relationship in my life. And I mean every relationship, from friends and family through to romantic relationships. If I could do and say the right things and earn your love, then that would mean I was accepted. But it all hinged on me earning your love.
Whilst this might seem obvious to some, for me it has only been this year through a lot of soul-searching and some amazing mentors, that I have realised I had it all wrong. I’m in a season of proactively re-training my mind to know first that God loves me, regardless of achievement or how high I raise my hands on Sunday, and secondly the things I want, the things I desire, He knows about and is willing, is able and wants to deliver on them.
God simply says to bring your requests to Him. He doesn’t ask for your map on how to get to where you want to be or what you want. He just says “Tell me….and leave the rest to me. I love you. I’ve got this.”
That’s why that little thought of “I thought I’d be doing that with my husband” that wafted through my brain caught my attention immediately. My spidey-senses started to tingle and I knew that there was something not right with that thought. There was something deeper to it and I needed to bring it into the light.
We find ourselves wrapped in bitterness and anger and disappointment because we are holding ransom the “how” of our desires. We think that because we can dream it then we know how to get there or what the best way to get there is. If we could just trust God enough, if we could just let go enough, if could just surrender, and then surrender again, we might just see the miraculous unfold before us. We might just see God deliver on our desire in a truly mind-blowing way. A way we could never have thought of. A way that is exceedingly, abundantly above anything we could ever hope or imagine. A way that puts Him at the centre of it all instead of us.
I’m choosing surrender again. I haven’t seen the mind-blowing miraculous unfold yet, but I surrender the desire, surrender my thinking, surrender my ‘how’ and instead choose to believe I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
So I’m going to give morning church ago. When I walk inside on Sunday I will probably be clutching my coffee tight and eagerly seeking out my friends. I’ll probably yawn in the sermon and wish I was at home, snoozing in bed. But I’ll go. And I'll go because I choose to no longer hold out for my way, holding the “how” to ransom in expectation for God to deliver on what I want. I’ll go because, with or without a husband, God has led me to this point. I’ll go because I trust His way more than I trust my own.