Sunday, May 12, 2013


Dedicating Jude, January 2011

 A few months ago, I glanced around our church. Sunday worship -- one of my favorite times of the week -- had just ended, and Pastor Abe was beginning his sermon. Though I usually pay fairly close attention, for some reason (maybe third trimester hormones!) people-watching seemed more interesting. Side note to Abe: you're a wonderful preacher, I promise..

Everywhere I looked, I saw friends of all stripes; young to old, rich to poor, all sorts of personalities and in different life situations. A married couple had just started sitting together again after being separated and going through counseling. One man was awaiting jail time for a crime. Another guy -- a former coyote who used to smuggle illegal immigrants over the border -- had just come to know Christ.

All around the sanctuary, there were broken and hurting people. People with pasts and regrets, with divorces, rap sheets, mistakes made and learned from.

Amazing, flawed, wonderful, still-growing people.

I snuggled into Nick's side, knowing we were no different. We have both done so many things we wish we hadn't. We have hurt each other, said things we didn't mean, lied, wasted time and energy on useless things....the list goes on and on.


And I thought, church rocks. It's not for the perfect ones who have it all together. It's not a trophy showcase for the rich, thin and famous. It's a hospital for the sick, a greenhouse of faith for the real. And boy do I love and need this greenhouse.

My baby shower was that afternoon. I chatted with my cousin, the topic drifting toward marriage and relationships. I mentioned how awesome marriage mentoring can be, how those who have gone on before can help the ones just starting the long and rocky road of matrimony.

"So are you and Nick marriage mentors?" she asked, and I actually laughed out loud. "No way," I replied, "because WE are the ones who need the wisdom, not the ones who have it!"

She surprised me by saying that from all appearances, Nick and I looked like we had it all together -- that we lived perfect lives.

I had no idea we were that good of actors.

Because here's the truth: we don't go to church because we're perfect.
We go because we're far from it, and we need the One who is!

I've been blessed to go to some awesome churches, but trust me, I totally get that they can do more harm than good. Quick example: in high school, my youth pastor was caught fooling around with a girl from youth group. He was fired and arrested, but the damage was done. Our youth group was decimated -- and so was much of our church. I still know people who stay far, far away from church and God...all because of that.

People can do horrible things, criminal things even. And even if their behavior doesn't land them in jail, it still can hurt. Gossip, backstabbing, cliques -- it definitely doesn't represent the best of humanity, especially when those humans purport to be Christians.

Putting yourself out there -- letting your weaknesses show to an entire group of people -- takes work. It's not easy. And when someone hurts you, our natural reaction is either to hurt them back or run the other way. Statistics prove me right; a huge number of people who grow up in church eventually leave it but still claim Christianity, and my suspicion is that fellow church-goers can be a big part of why.

Church takes dedication.

Dedication, coincidentally, is exactly what we did last Sunday. Dressed in her finest, Avinly took center stage in front of the whole congregation. There, Nick and I, along with our family behind us, made the commitment to raise our daughter to know about her Savior. Our church family then made the similar vow to pray for Avinly, to teach her and nurture her faith as she grows.

(And once more, my heart broke to think that we have to leave New Hope in November. Thankfully, I know that God is already planning our future church in the UK!)

Dedication is a quick, 5-minute ceremony, but one that Nick and I take very seriously and have done for all our children. Because we love them so stinkin' much, we will gladly do the hard work of the Sunday-morning chaos, endless loops of "Jesus Loves Me" at night and conversations that start out with, "I'm not sure if God or the Bible are really real" as they age and hit the questioning stage. That's part of our job as parents who have a very real, active relationship with Christ.

But we will also take our brood to church. Because it's there that they will learn the basics of faith -- Bible verses, songs, doctrines, etc. -- but also where they will meet their best friends, mentors and possibly even spouses (!). They will know the world is a good place to be in, no matter how scary it sometimes appears. They will meet Jesus and discover his infinite riches. They will get hurt, yes, but through those painful times, they will hopefully learn forgiveness, friendship, perseverance and a host of other good qualities that will last a lifetime.

Like dedication.