As the old saying goes, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” The pics you see are of Laura and me with our oldest son, Will, and his wife, Michaela. We don’t get to see them too often, so these pics taken in New Orleans show some pretty fond hearts filled with love for our kiddo and his bride.
Likewise, even though I’ve only been on sabbatical for three weeks, without attempting to sound sappy, my heart is growing pretty fond of our E91 family. I’m not implying I had no fondness for our friends prior to my sabbatical, but sometimes I take for granted those closest to me.
I took time this week to watch the sermon preached at E91 this past Sunday. Blake Park, our Students Pastor, preached on what it means to belong to a church. If you missed the sermon, let me give you the Reader’s Digest version: The Church is not a country club; it’s a family. And families are not places where you have to “fit in” but places where you get to belong.
Call me emotional, but that means a lot more to me now than it did three weeks ago. When Laura and I are not around our kids, we feel the tug of the heart that latches on to memories and delights in moments together. And so it is with the family of God.
Like any family, we can grow weary of one another. Personalities, opinions, and preferences cause us to long for a family vacation, where we vacate from and not with. But when your kids are grown and gone, reunions turn into revivals where memories become selective and bygones are bygones.
I was struck with the beauty of belonging when I read an autobiographical description of Kathleen Norris about why she goes to church. She writes candidly about her frustrations with her church, where it’s hard to get along at times, to feel connected, and to agree with everyone.
But then she writes this, “[Sometimes] I forget that I don’t go to church for myself. . . . A Presbyterian pastor once reminded me . . . that we `go to church for other people. Because,’ he added, `someone may need you there’” (Amazing Grace, 203).
“Someone may need you there.” And I may need to admit that I need them. My sabbatical is a reminder of that reality. Whatever church you call home, you’re not only there because of what you need; you’re also there because someone may need you. And, let’s face it, we need them too.
We’re a family. God’s family. When we choose to be adopted into a family and adopt others to join us, we do so knowing full well that means we get to welcome the smile that sometimes turns into a scowl. And for that I give thanks, because I don’t always carry a smile, and I’m grateful for a place to belong even in those days when smiling is not on my agenda.