Between the Altar and the Door
In church, as in marriage, sometimes it seems so easy to quit…
A s a long-time church member and people-observer, I have seen first-hand how a person can go from apostle to apostate in nearly a moment. We’ve all seen how quickly a conversion can happen (both ways). The power of the Holy Spirit does amazing things in the hearts of the worst people (like Saul, who “ravaged” the church). His conversion happened in the blink of an eye, quite literally, when he was blinded by the light of an angel and set straight by Jesus Himself (Acts 9).
To experience such a conversion is powerful. I grew up in the church and never had such an experience as Saul specifically, but I definitely have had my share of experiences with the Holy Spirit, and it sticks with you. So, how are we so quick to forget?
When I first realized I loved my husband, it was similar to a conversion experience. There is an emotional high that happens, a commitment that follows, and then a lot of work. It’s been said that marriage is work. This is true. Likewise, the Christian walk is work. It isn’t even easy work, and not for the faint of heart.
When you have an “in love” conversion experience with God it’s often followed by a commitment, and I hate to admit it, but people fall out of love with God as quickly as they do with each other–in a moment. Usually that moment is at the end of our rope.
The “D” Word
In today’s world, there is a scary word to describe the process of falling out of love. It’s not a process, really. In my experience when the ‘d’ word is thrown around it’s because of one thing, one fight, one bad call, and everything else good about the union is thrown out the window with the ‘d’ word. It takes years to build a relationship, and they can end in one bad moment.
I’ve seen it happen in marriages, and I’ve seen it happen in churches. In the Christian world we don’t call it divorce. You aren’t divorcing God or your church–you depart, you leave. There are a few words for this parting-of-ways: disaffiliation, disassociation, disfellowship…
The power of the Holy Spirit does amazing things in the hearts of the worst people
The separation from the church, from like-minded Christians, and from God can happen in an instant. Oftentimes it’s one glance, one word, one question that drives a wedge in deeper, breaking us apart for good:
Your husband’s not here again? I hope you’re not having problems…
You’re having another baby! Don’t you already have enough…?
I heard your son singing a song from X cartoon. Is this something you allow?
It’s not the nature of the questions that are the problem. It’s not the glare or the one incident that hurts one or the other person’s feelings. It’s timing.
You catch the wrong person or circumstance on a bad day, and suddenly it’s all you can focus on. And so, it’s over.
Marriage, friendships, relationships—they all take work. Maintenance. Time.
Sometimes I look at my house and my to-do list and say to my husband: I’m sorry, but I am super busy this week. Can you help me with the house or the kids or dinners?
Sometimes I send my friends a text and tell them: I’m thinking about you, and if you need me I’m here, but I’ll be “missing in action” for a few days.
Sometimes I have to ask people to pick up the slack—and sometimes I have to slack off at church. I have to ask an assistant teacher to teach for a few weeks. I have to ask someone else to do children’s story, or write an article for a newsletter.
Sometimes I have to do this because my busy-ness can turn to laziness if I’m overwhelmed. My laziness can quickly become apathy, and then it can turn into one of those ‘d’ words when I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time, in the wrong state of mind.
One Tip to Keep You Moving
Self-assess, talk to others, and ask for help. It’s not that you’re lazy at all, but overwhelmed with a load of things your church doesn’t see.
“But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:5-8, NASB).*
This article was originally published on outlookmag.org on Jan. 16, 2017. To see the original, click here: http://outlookmag.org/between-the-alter-and-the-door/.
* Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.