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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