“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
“I don’t know…” I said, “I’m just so tired of talking about it. I don’t want to answer any more questions. I don’t want to talk about how my belly has dropped or that yes, I’m “still here”, you know?…”
My husband just looked at me.
I knew exactly what he was thinking and, as usual, it was conveniently lining up with what the Spirit was already telling my heart.
It was late Saturday night and we were discussing what I should do come morning. Nearly one full week past my due date, I knew that no one would expect me to be at church, and would even be surprised if I made an appearance, but I was feeling so torn about it.
“If you don’t feel well, that’s one thing,” my husband encouraged me, “and even if you just want to stay home and rest, that’s perfectly fine. But don’t not come because of what you just said…that’s not you.”
I knew he was right. Even as the words left my mouth, I was uncomfortable with them, as they went against everything we say we believe and have worked toward in our church.
You see, the last couple of years in our congregation have centered on learning to become a family. Loving each other as true brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. Being transparent and real with one another. Assuming the best of each other. Bearing one another’s burdens…
And if I truly examined my heart, I was lying about why I didn’t want to come to church the next morning, because, honestly, if I showed up and no one mentioned my pregnancy or how I was feeling, I might have returned home confused and hurt, feeling like no one cared. I love those people. And I love their concern for me.
The truth of my resistance was simple to diagnose:
I wanted to bear my burden alone.
I didn’t want to humble myself and accept sympathy.
I didn’t want to appear weak or tired or haggard or needy.
In other words, I just wanted to disappear from among “my family” for a bit until I could return to them in better form…sitting up straighter, feeling more like myself, victorious over this pregnancy….you know, normal. Healthy. Whole.
I didn’t want them to see me defeated.
So now I was really torn about going to church, because this had just turned from a simple question of “should I?” or “shouldn’t I?” into a very personal spiritual battle that I didn’t want to deal with; I didn’t want the Spirit to be teaching me anything. I was a week past my due date! Wah!!
But deciding we were borrowing trouble by worrying too much about it – after all, my water could have broken in the next 20 minutes and all of this discussing would be a moot point – we decided to just wait until morning and see what happened.
The next day, Mr. Gore decided to let me sleep until I woke up; by the time I joined the land of the living, there was only enough time to fix Rebekah’s hair and send my family off to Sunday School, tentatively planning to join them for worship.
On their way out the door, my husband continued to gently encourage me to attend if my body was feeling comfortable, reminding me that I could retreat to his office and rest on his recliner at any point during the service or the post-service potluck.
But, shutting the door behind them, I still didn’t know what to do…
it was so quiet in my house.
So comfortable (I was wearing my muumuu).
And no one could see how big I was, or how tired, or how mentally fatigued or how weak; I was alone, and a part of me really liked that, even as my heart yearned to see the dear faces I had been missing over the past two weeks.
But I really needed to make a decision, spit-spot!
And in the end, it wasn’t my stamina that got me dressed and ready and out the door in time to make it downhill to hear the preaching. It wasn’t a supernatural burst of energy or resolve. It wasn’t even a spiritual change of heart or mind…
It was the truth of scripture and the example of my husband.
You see, during the 9 months that I have been growing our 4th child, he has been dealing with his own set of problems; a year and a half ago, he had a non-invasive surgical procedure done on a herniated disc, one that would potentially put a stop to his chronic back and leg pain without resorting to major back surgery.
Sadly, while it gave him relief for almost a year, he blew the disc out again early this year, and it has been undeniable that a fusion was in his future, the sooner the better, not only to put a stop to his pain, but to keep his nerve from becoming permanently damaged.
But I was pregnant.
And we have three little children.
And a two-story house.
And in a huge act of sacrificial love, he chose to put off surgery until I could have a full month to recover from having our baby…
Which meant that he had an extremely long year ahead. Pain management has been key, but even on medication, he has been either persistently uncomfortable or downright hurting. Sitting for long periods is unbearable for him, meaning he needs to be on his feet or lying down on the floor. His “office” became the couch in our church’s foyer where he laid with his laptop and a pile of books nearby, and most of his meals in 2013 have been eaten at his family’s feet…
and while God has been so gracious to allow him to comfortably stand and preach every Sunday morning, he comes home pretty sore in the afternoon and desperately in need of rest.
If anyone should feel the right to stay home on Sunday night while our other pastor teaches, it is him.
And if anyone should feel free to cut out early after that teaching and skip our weekly fellowship meal, it is him.
But I’ve watched him.
He wakes up from his Sunday nap, he takes his pills, and he goes to the one place that he knows he needs more than anything else.
To his church.
And he does the most unheard-of thing I have ever witnessed in my 31 years of church life.
He gets the pillow out of his office….
and he lays down in the floor at the back of the sanctuary to hear the Bible lesson.
People walk past and he talks to them, waving, smiling, never blushing, never acting as if it is out-of-the-ordinary that he is laid out on the floor in a house of God.
You know why?
Because when he says he loves his church family, he means it. And when he says that there is no better place for him to be than among the brethren, he truly believes it. And when he expounds Hebrews 10 from the pulpit and teaches us that one of the greatest and most powerful tools for our growth and encouragement is to spend time with each other, he then lives it out for his flock to see.
And as I considered his example on Sunday morning, I started to realize what I would be missing if I stayed home in my muumuu…
Getting my act together and making it to church wasn’t about a legalistic check-mark to prove how godly I was; this was a chance for me to have faith in the word of God and to seek His way rather than my own. And as much as I didn’t want to put real clothes on and face my own vulnerability by making a public appearance, it was undeniable that the Spirit was wooing me to come.
Take up thy pregnant girth and follow Me.
And so I took my bath. I got ready. I made some biscuits for the potluck.
And right as the preaching began, I waddled into my home-away-from-home.
The minute I entered into that familiar room filled with familiar faces, I knew that God had been good to pursue me in this. I needed this time with my family. I needed their love and concern. I needed to hear the Word expounded.
I needed to trust in what the Bible says is good for me and not what I felt like I needed.
And as unimportant and gross and exhausted as I felt that Sunday morning, my church needed me, too. To see that I was okay. To use their gifts to minister to me. To be encouraged by my gifts. Such is the beauty of the body and every single one of its members. There is no doubt that I would have enjoyed my Sunday morning at home, but I was richly blessed by joining my local congregation to worship the God who made us a family in the first place. I might have gone home tired, but I was refreshed.
Again, attending church every Sunday isn’t some sort of mystical bullet on a spiritual to-do list that will earn you points in heaven….
but we should never underestimate how important each opportunity to “stir one another up” is and take advantage of those opportunities, whether it is easy and we are excited about it or whether it is difficult and as inconvenient as getting a pregnant lady out of her muumuu.
We don’t need to wait until we are healthy and well…sinless…perfect and put-together…strong. We need to go now, just as we are…
just like the guy who lays in the back of our sanctuary every Sunday night.
Let not conscience let you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream, all the fitness He requireth is to feel your need of Him. I will arise and go to Jesus, He will embrace me in His arms, in the arms of my dear Savior, oh there are ten thousand charms.