When my Dad first got sick I stopped wearing make-up to church.
This probably sounds a little strange to you, or maybe you know exactly where I'm going with this because you've been there yourself.
Inevitably, every Sunday morning as I was sitting next to my father, the Holy Spirit would take over my worship, and my heart would be filled with His presence to the point where tears would be pouring down my cheeks. Once in awhile these would be tears of sadness as I thought of everything my father had gone through and the long fight he still had in front of him, but most often they were tears of relief and joy as I was reminded that both he and I were serving a good God, a God who loved us, and a God who would never leave us.
Sunday mornings are not the same without him. These days they consist of walking in, going to my mailbox knowing I'm not going to run into my Dad on the way there, walking to my seat knowing I'm not going to see him talking with a friend and waving and smiling at me as I go by, and sitting down, knowing he's not going to be taking his usual seat next to me. Knowing all of these things in advance hasn't made them any easier to get used to.
It still seems like he's supposed to be there. I still see him everywhere he used to be. I still feel him next to me.
And yesterday I found myself crying, yet again, but it was for a different reason. It wasn't because I missed him by my side, although I did. It wasn't because I had already heard his name mentioned by multiple people that morning in regard to what a wonderful man he was, because I had. It wasn't because I was reminded by two individuals of how my Dad had been faithful in being at church early every week to pray over the upcoming service, although I was. It wasn't even because during the middle of the service my Mom showed me a letter she had found in my Dad's Bible that he had written containing seven things he wanted most from this life, with every one of them being directly related to his love for God, his family, and God's people, although she did.
No, I shed tears, I cried, and I wept because for the first time all week it felt safe to do so.
My daughters were in nursery and Sunday School, my Mom and my husband sat on either side of me, and my sister was within reaching distance. But most importantly, this was where my earthly father had felt most at home, and this was my heavenly Father's house. Nothing could harm me here. This was the place where my tears would be most understood by man and God alike. All the sadness I had shoved aside all week because it just wasn't the time or place to indulge it came rushing to the surface, and I couldn't hold it in any longer. And being there, flanked on all sides by my family and sitting in the presence my God, I knew I didn't have to, and I was able to just let go.
I could go on and on with reasons why I love my church. From the staff, to the congregation, to the opportunities it provides for service, and provides for my family, etc., etc., etc. But none of these reasons come close to the real reason this one building holds such a huge place in my heart. It's because, without fail, I know I can meet God there every time I walk in those doors. No matter how busy my week has been, no matter how many times I've pushed Him aside, no matter how frazzled I am from trying to get everyone out the door to make it there on time, I know that the minute I enter in that building He is waiting for me. Waiting for me to be real with Him, waiting for me to worship Him, waiting for me to come to Him, waiting for me to pour out my soul (and if necessary, my tears) to Him.
I know I don't have to wait to enter into a church to find Him. I know I can find Him everywhere and anywhere I want to if I devote enough energy into doing so. But it seems as if lately I just need to know there is one place I'm guaranteed to meet Him face to face. One place I can go where I don't need to be concerned about my home, or my work, or anything other than what is happening between Him and I. One place I can empty myself of everything that is me, and be filled with everything that is Him. One place I can count on to feel safe.
And He was faithful in providing this for me. Again. And I know no matter what my next week holds I can depend on going to this place next Sunday, baring my soul, and finding Him ready to receive me in all my rundown, weary mess. Again. And again and again and again, for as long as I make it a point to go looking for Him there.
So, if you were one of the lucky ones who got to see me yesterday morning with my tear-soaked shirt and my bloodshot eyes, please know that I am, in fact, okay. These tears were actually brought about by the power of the Lord in my life at that moment, in that place, and you will most likely see the same thing if you happen to run into me next week.
Just be grateful I decided to leave the mascara at home.
Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day praising You for Your perfect understanding of my human needs, and knowing that I need a place to go where I can always depend on finding You, regardless of how much distance I have put between us in the past week, and no matter what condition I am in. You love me, You see me, and You just want to me feel safe with You. Which I do, Lord, I do.
It says so much about You, that I feel the most secure and the most alive when I am with You. The minute I surrender to the peace of Your embrace my life comes back into perspective, and I am given that elemental renewal and sense of confidence that I can make it through another week as long as I allow You to be a part of it.
Nothing in this world comes close to the wholeness that goes hand in hand with being a Child of the King.
Thank You for being there for me, and for giving me the assurance that the day will never come where this will not be true. If there is one certainty in my life, it is that if ever I need You, I will find You. What would I possibly do without You?
I love You, Lord. In my house, in Your house, everywhere, I love You.
In Your Name I pray,