These thoughts have been stirring in my head for the past several weeks and today I woke up in the wee hours of the morning and couldn’t quit the “writing in my head.” These are the times I usually feel I need to put these thoughts to paper.
Please know right now that the following really has nothing to do with cancer, so if you only come to this site to check my progress, then be forewarned: you may want to quit reading. 🙂
Actually, now that I think about it, these thoughts actually need to be put into action, not just “to paper”.
I’ve been convicted again. A beautiful African American woman at my church has made me ashamed of myself, bless her soul.
Imagine this with me: Imagine someone gives you a free ticket to the final four (or if you aren’t a sports fan, a free ticket to a cool concert or play). You aren’t sure where your seat is, but you are just excited to be going because YOUR TEAM has made it to the big game! You walk in, hand the attendant your ticket, and he says, “You can sit anywhere you want in the whole arena. Even down on the front row if you want!” You’ve had the good fortune to arrive a bit early and there are lots of open seats. You say, “But how will I know if I’m sitting in someone else’s seat?” He answers, “Oh, there are no assigned seats. It is just first come, first serve.” So you say, “AWESOME! I’m headed up to the nosebleed section. I want to sit pretty far back from the action, where I might get distracted and not be able to see well much less pay attention.”
No? That’s not what you’d do? I wouldn’t.
But that’s what I’ve done for years… at church.
Now imagine this with me: Imagine walking into a church service to see the front pews of the auditorium comfortably filled. To see people sitting close together, as close to the action as they can get. To see them talking easily with each other, eagerly anticipating worship, not worried about “taking someone’s spot” because there are no assigned seats. Would you assume that they were all related to each other? That some big family reunion must have gone on in town and now they’ve all decided to come to church together?
Guess what – that’s what every church service is! We are all related in Christ and our time of worship is a grand reunion after being out in the world as foreigners, strangers, and aliens.
So why do I instead choose to sit 20 feet away from the next person until crowding and maybe a polite usher force us closer together?
Why do church staff have to block off the balcony, the back pews, the side sections, in order to get us all to sit close together, down front?
What must God think when he sees us desire the close seats at concerts and sporting events and then angle for the back pews at His gathering, at His table?
Is it because we don’t want to be that close to the action? We don’t come to church to get emotionally involved, like we do when we emotionally cheer on our favorite team, right?
Here are some of my excuses:
I want to sit near my friends, the people I know. And then I want to complain about how it’s hard to get to know other people at this big church. Yeah, Sara, that makes a lot of sense. And how much time do you spend chatting during the service anyway! That’s not what you’re there for.
Well, what if I have to get up in the middle of the service? I don’t want to be a distraction. Yeah, I think I had to get up in the middle of a service all of 2 times in 2010, so this is a valid reason for me, right? I think not. (For some folks it is, I know.)
What about that James passage about not taking the choice seats? (James 2:2-4) Shouldn’t I leave the front seats for a visitor, because those are the best seats? Um, every time I go to visit an unfamiliar church, that’s right where I want to go – right up in front on the front row, by myself. Yeah right.
So I’ve been convicted by this beautiful lady at church who sits on the front row, alone. I’ve watched as she sits with rapt attention on our minister as he shares the words and thoughts of God. She is so focused, so peaceful, so obviously thrilled to be there and so oblivious to everything else going on around her save her experience of worship to our Father. She nods, says, “Yes, Yes Jesus” as we sing, as we listen to truth. Not in a distracting way; not in an attention-seeking way. In a “true fan” way. She truly worships for an audience of ONE.
And I am ashamed. I am ashamed that I don’t have such a desire to be “close to the action” that I don’t even care that I’m sitting up there alone, that I don’t care that people have “watched me” walk up that far. I am ashamed that I seek the “back half” of the auditorium because that way I probably won’t have to meet new people at church.
And I wonder. What must God think when HE enters our place of worship to be with us? What does He think of me?
Maybe this is just me. Maybe it’s not that big of a deal. But now it is a big deal for me.
So my family is going to be trying to move a little closer, down front. NOT because we want to “be seen” but because we want to show God we are pretty happy to be there.
I’d sure be happy if you joined us if you can. But rest assured I will not judge if you don’t. I know there may be many reasons you need to sit near the back.
I just want my family to show God that we are excited to be at His table.
Maybe, just maybe, one day our worship services really will start to look like one BIG family reunion.
(And if that day comes, my apologies to the ushers who may miss their jobs! ;))
Thanks for reading, and just think about it. That’s all I ask.