Why do I need to be in community every week?
As Christians, we are called to selflessness. We look to our savior Jesus Christ to model perfect selflessness and how to serve one another as his followers. As a mom, I am blessed to spend every waking (and sleeping) moment of my life ready to serve my family, friends and the wonderful mosaic of people we have in our life at any moment should the need arise. I feel grateful for this and know that I, too, am surrounded by others ready to serve me should I need it. God has spared no good thing for our family and we are truly blessed more than we know.
While I spend the whole week in service to my family & others (not perfectly by any stretch of the imagination but I keep trying!) I wait for my weekend break patiently. Every week I fantasize “taking the weekend off” and doing some fake-perfect-day thing like go to the beach and have a picnic or drive up to Mt. Rainier and spend a day in the park. I imagine soothing weekend getaways sold to me by advertising meeting my need for escape as if there could be some elusive restoration somewhere other than in the Lord.
But every scenario comes at a great cost, a selfish cost. Since Caleb’s job is in ministry we work our regular jobs all week and when the weekend comes, that’s when the spiritual work begins. Not that it ever really stops. But that’s when we are really on the clock and our physical presence is in demand. My life is better because of my husband’s teaching and I know other people in our community’s lives are better too. I feel blessed that we are in this position and there is great fulfillment in doing the work the Lord has us here to do.
But some weekends I just want a break.
Right now, our community meets three weekends a month then takes one weekend off to rest completely. Thanks to that cycle I do get the opportunity to fulfill those restful weekend fantasies, we never do though. After working most days all month, I think those weekends are spent collapsed on our bed/sofa, with no itinerary for the weekend because neither of us can muster the energy to plan anything. The kids have plenty of energy, of course. But thank goodness for Grandmas…
Why am I routinely tempted to “get away” from it all, rather than meet up with our spiritual brothers and sisters in the Lord?
I believe the commandment to not lie applies both to lying to other people as well as ourselves. If I really get to the core of what my motivation is in seeking time away from regular life, it’s both a cry of being burnt out but also a protective measure so that others won’t see how lacking my prayer and bible-reading life really is. I know I can do better. I know I can make sacrifices to my selfish pursuits to serve God and others better. And I feel guilty about it because some part of me simply doesn’t want to.
At some level, I think my desire to avoid community is rooted in the discomfort that comes from being in close spiritual relationship with other human beings. I think when we are honest with ourselves, we don’t like other people peering into our hearts to see the sinful or simply worldly pleasures we would prefer over the things we are commanded to do. I also think that’s where the fake church-appropriate personas come from, when we don’t want people to see our sin, we pretend like it isn’t there. Just like we have different clothes we reserve for church, we can also adopt a different personality; a polished, “Sunday best” version of our sinful weekday selves. But like the showy illusion of fancy clothes, those personalities wear off when it gets down to the actual day in and day out act of sticking next to people in a congregation who will ultimately see you for exactly who you are.
Just Show Up
The biggest persuasion I have to attend service/worship/study when I am SO discouraged and worn out from my work week is the fact that those days when I struggled the most and showed up anyway, God brought teachings and women to me that I would have never come across that changed both my heart and my life. It was like watching the Holy Spirit meeting me halfway but surpassing any halfway mark infinitely. I have been brought to literal tears after realizing how deeply needed the healing is when I encounter those days. I would have starved myself of the opportunity to conquer whatever spiritual struggle or depletion I was dealing with had I stayed home, or gone out of town, or simply just flaked and let the enemy win. I personally have realized that those days when I struggle the most to show up are the ones that I need to be there the most.
So maybe we should call it for what it is: a cleverly proposed spiritual attack from the enemy. The world always looks better, the shiny billboard-like weekend ideas I have are not real, and my rest comes from resting in Jesus not a five-star hotel or beach bungalow or cabin escape. Those things can be glorious and far from sinful when we make them part of our Christ-centered lives, but never when they come at the cost of our spiritual walk with the Lord and other believers. When our priorities are in order, and Christ is the focus, we are given more than anything the world has to offer: true, lasting peace with God.
Cover Photo by Dawid Zawiła