Playing Hide and Seek

I went to church Sunday morning for the first Sunday since I left North Carolina in mid-June.

I grew up in a world where only fevers, vomiting, hospitalization, or death got you out of church on a Sunday morning. And for heaven’s sake, don’t fake sickness! Because if you miss church on Sunday morning, Mama’s not letting you out of bed for the rest of the day. The world I live in today is very different. Church is highly optional and for many folks, it’s the least favorable thing to spend a Sunday doing. And while I understand that, to a point, I have missed going to church…

When I was nineteen, I went out of the country for the first time. I packed my bags and spent two and a half weeks in Mexico with a construction team. I was not homesick, at all. In fact, when it was time to leave, I cried. I didn’t want to return to the US. That was in the days before cell phones or widespread internet and so I didn’t get to speak to my parents the whole time I was gone. During a long layover in Dallas-Fort Worth airport, on our way home, we were allowed to call our parents. And as soon as I heard my Dad’s voice, I started crying so hard he couldn’t understand a word I was saying. I hadn’t missed him the whole time!

Last Saturday night, as I started getting ready for church the next morning, I was overwhelmed with that same homesick feeling. But instead of being homesick for my Dad, I was homesick for God. And as I lay in bed, thinking about it, I got more and more excited. I was thinking, “I’m going to see God tomorrow!” And though I talk to God every day and I experience Him at other ways and other times, I just felt so excited that I was going to God’s house and I was going to see and feel and experience Him.

It didn’t happen the way I expected it to. I walked in and expected to hear prayers, thanking God for what we’ve been given and instead, I heard prayers asking God to give us more. I expected to sing songs thanking God for who He is and instead, we sang songs that asked God to bless us more. I recognize that this was just one Sunday and that perhaps on any other Sunday, I could have sat in the same pew and heard different prayers and different songs full of thanksgiving to God.  But on this particular Sunday, I was struck by the thought that we, as Christians, can be so selfish as to think that we have the right to make demands on God without recognizing all that He has already done for us. And I was convicted, because I had come in on Sunday morning looking for what God could do for me and not for how I could praise and bless Him.

I experienced God on Sunday morning, but it wasn’t in the way I expected. It wasn’t in the way I had hoped. And the disappointment was so sharp and so deep that it cut me and I wept. And I almost walked out. But in staying, I learned something.

I came away from Sunday with more questions than answers (which, ironically, is what the pastor preached about that morning). Questions like: Why are we in church? Why do we come to church and call it worship? Is it for us or for Him? If we come for Him, will He not give us all we need? But if we come for us, will we truly be fulfilled?

AW Tozer gave me some of my answers this week. In his Pursuit of God, he said, “When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself. The evil habit of seeking God-and effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the ‘and’ lies our greatest woe. If we omit the ‘and’ we shall soon find God, and in Him we shall find that for which we have all our lives been secretly longing.” (p. 13)

Sunday morning, I went looking for God as I had seen Him before, but He wasn’t in that box. I had to look outside of it. And when I did, I found out that He had been right there all along.

Sunday morning, I went looking for God and a list of preconceived notions about church, but He just wanted me to look for Him.

Psalm 107:9 says, “He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” Tozer’s prayer is, “O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.” And this is my prayer also – Lord, I have tasted Thy goodness and it has satisfied me. Now, let me thirst for more. And let me find it.

And His response is, “Yes.”

13“When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. “Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

 

This is the second post in our book discussion on AW Tozer’s classic book, Pursuit of God. Whether you’re reading the book or not, we welcome you to read the posts and discuss with us! If you have read the chapter and written a response to it, my co-facilitator, Jason Stasyszen, has the link widget over at his place this week. Skedaddle on over there and link up! Next week, the widget will be back here as we begin our first week of discussion on Chapter 2.

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Comments

  1. :-)

  2. I am ever so thankful for all God has done. I want to serve Him with my life and worship Him with every action… yet, at the same time, I hunger for Him more and more.

  3. I loved that quote too. I had so much highlighted in the chapter I wasn’t sure what to write about! I’ve been so guilty of the “God-and” disorder, but I am thankful that His Holy Spirit exposes it through my own seeking and being around others who will push me and hold me to His word (not my version of it). He is so good and He most worthy of our praise and thanks. Good stuff, Sarah. :)

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    Chris, I see that smile! Now, I want to know what’s going on in the head and heart behind it! 😉

  5. Sarah Salter says:

    Thank you, Dusty!

  6. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason, having people to challenge us (iron sharpening iron) is one of the most important parts of the faith-life experience, I think. I’m so grateful for the people God puts around me to challenge me. I think they make me better. And I know they make me love better. :-)

  7. It’s hard to reconcile our soul’s desire with what religion offers. Yes worship is great, we enjoy the fellowship, and the preaching is usually good. But that is all, like Tozer said, “God-and”. I need a new approach to Sundy mornings, and every day for that matter, seeking God alone. Easier said than done.

  8. Sarah Salter says:

    Frank, I have to remind myself daily — moment by moment — that it’s not about me. It’s about Him. Maybe that will be the perspective I need to get to where I need to be. Thanks for coming by and commenting! It’s nice to see you over in my neighborhood again! :-)

  9. I’ve been away too long! Glad to be back and glad to dig into another book with you. I’ll try not to be a stranger :)

  10. Sarah Salter says:

    Frank, you’re welcome ANY time! And this is SUCH a good, but challenging book for me. I can’t wait to see what comes out of the reading and discussion!

  11. Good point. We moved to a different church in December, and one thing I’ve noticed (that I really like) is that all worship points to Christ, not us. The worship leaders intentionally choose songs that focus on Jesus’ sacrifice for us, God’s saving grace, the power of God, etc. Any reference to “us” is about standing firm until the end or enjoying our eternal reward in heaven after fighting our earthly battles.

    It definitely makes for a completely differnet mindset when the worship service focuses on Christ and not us. I walk out challenged, humbled, and often convicted by what I hear and experience.
    Hopefully the church you visited was having an “off” week.

  12. Wow, what a great post to sit and chew on. You know, I wonder a lot of the “seeking God-and” stems from the routines we as Christians tend to develop when we get together in groups. I’ve been noticing how churches rarely break from the set pattern the use to organize a service and small groups rarely deviate from meeting format on nights they get together. Somewhere in that process, expectations are created and from expectations come things that complicate our relationships with Christ. That’s not to say anything about church or meeting is inherently broken or messed up, but I definitely think it’s food for thought. Great post.

  13. Sarah Salter says:

    Thanks for coming by and sharing, Steve!! I’ve been in the church for 34 years. First as a pastor’s kid and then as an employee. And something I’ve noticed is that when we do/say/believe/sing something and we like the result, we repeat it. For instance, if we sing a praise and worship song that really “feels” good and people respond well to it, we will sing it over and over and over and over and over again, even if the people stop responding to it. It stops being about praising and worshiping God and it starts to be about us and what we get out of it. (I’m speaking in general. I’m sure this is not the case in 100% of the churches, 100% of the time.) Let’s stop trying to force God to adhere to our formula — because when it’s about our formula, it’s no longer about Him.

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