I spent all my free time finishing work for a church missions project. I was exhausted, irritable, and just wanted to hide from the world.
I text Sarah*, a close friend from church, informing her that I wanted to skip the young adults’ ministry meeting that weekend.
I dragged myself to church, having skipped it the previous Sunday. I was prepared to skip church that day if I overslept, but somehow managed to wake up ahead of my alarm – in time for church.
“I wasn’t planning to come today, but God had His plans”, I mumbled to the friend next to me in service – anything to convey that I really didn’t want to be there.
“That’s because you woke up based on your ‘spiritual clock’ and not your biological clock today!” she teased.
As the service began, I spotted one chair turned around, facing the congregation – meaning our hearing-impaired friend, Debbie*, was there that day, and Sarah was interpreting the service for her.
While Sarah sometimes brings her hearing-impaired friends to join us, we don’t have a large enough community to start a ministry dedicated to hearing-impaired individuals – it falls on her to interpret the sermon for them.
Then it dawned on me why God wanted me to be in church.
When Sarah interprets the sermons in sign language, her hands are full (literally and otherwise) and she cannot take notes during service. While she never asks for help having notes taken during service on days like these, I figure she appreciates the help she gets – the same way I appreciate my friends filling me in on weeks when I missed service.
The opportunity – the privilege – to meet the needs of church family pushes me to turn up on Sundays when I don’t want to.
My showing up that day enabled her to serve joyfully, without having to be concerned that she missed out the contents of what was said.
Within the same week, someone shared this article in the church Facebook group – a good reminder that each member in the body of Christ has been given different gifts to build up the body of the church (Romans 12:4-8).
Attending church with this perspective – even when it’s difficult, even when I don’t feel like it – gives me the opportunity to give and receive grace. While church is an imperfect family, each person is meant to be part of this messy, varied community, serving the church community, despite our own imperfections.
This series of events was not pulled from a distant past; they show how I felt about church just three months ago. Things have not magically changed since; some weeks, I step in just before the sermon starts, convincing myself that even though I have missed part of the order of service, I am present for the entirety of the sermon, so that’s okay, right?
Other days, I want to stay home in the comfort of my room, because unfamiliar faces in church feel too scary to handle.
But the opportunity – the privilege – to meet the needs of church family pushes me to turn up on Sundays when I don’t want to. While it isn’t easy to consider the needs of others when I’m not feeling my best, church is a place where we can share our burdens in the midst of struggles, or carry the burdens of others within the church community.
Sometimes, taking sermon notes for one friend is all I can manage, but it is enough – and I will continue to press on in serving the church community in small ways like this, the best I can.
*My friends’ names were changed upon request.