For all that I did know, what I did not know was that this place even existed. I thought perhaps it was some fantasy conjured up in my mind. Some mythical place where my heart longed to dwell, and I would not see this side of heaven. To be incredibly honest I did not really trust this God that I claimed to worship and serve to provide such a place to fill my heart.
When I first moved to Dallas finding a place of worship was an interesting process. First of all, I live in the Bible belt….throw a rock and hit 3 buildings with the word “church” on the side.
Secondly, I have friends serving in churches all over Dallas, so learning about one, or going someplace with “familiar faces” would not be hard. But I did not really want just another building to walk in on a Sunday morning, I was tired of the same old thing, where you showed up for the same song and dance (well depending on the church), and then left for lunch with a “warm, fuzzy” feeling and a life really not changed at all. I was tired of this search. I was tired of the “hobby” of church, the thing I did on the weekends. Really if that was all it was, why was I even bothering? I wanted a place where I was surrounded by thinkers…I wanted someone to challenge the very core of me and make me think again…I wanted a place where the church was so much more than the building and where traditional moralism was mocked and non-existent….I wanted a place where when I walked through the door I knew that the Spirit of the Living God dwelt there and was going to show up and get some stuff done. I wanted a pastor who was not all about himself, who thought outside of the proverbial box and who gave me meat to chew on for weeks at a time. I wanted a place where when I walked in the door my heart took root, there were places of service that I could use my gifts given by God, and though I did not know the term at the time, I wanted a place where I could find community.
For the first few months I visited quite a few churches. Again, I live in the Bible belt, so one or two on every corner…not hard to find. Some were OK, some were fantastic, some I walked in and walk right back out! But everywhere I went just didn’t have the right food if you will. I left hungry in most places and starving in others. This was not because the meat was not there but it wasn’t meat that was filling my soul. At one point I really just thought about chucking it all and sleeping in.
I had some friends at this church that was tucked away in the corner of a residential area on the Lewisville/Flower mound border. By “some friends”, I mean that if I went to the right service I could skip going to homecoming at Hardin-Simmons! I went to school with the pastor, and a couple of staff members, some of the lay leaders and, at the service I attended one week, a large part of the congregation. I fought going there for the longest time because of pride. I didn’t want everyone to think I was just going there because I was following the pastor, or because everyone else went to this popular place. I kept telling God over and over that I just didn’t want to go there.
One night I’d just had enough. I was so hungry for Truth, for pure worship, for challenging thinking and I knew if I went there I would get fed, I was so tired of searching for a place to call home, and even though I “knew” this wasn’t it I said “I’m just going to go get fed tonight then I’ll find where God wants me to be next week.” Does anyone else see the skewed logic of that statement? I mean really?????? It was like I was going to go get some steak where steak would always be available, but tomorrow I’d go find the place where I could always get bread and water….
I drove in late (because I didn’t want to see anyone I knew) and snuck in the back while the lights were down for the musical worship part of the service. I thought I was going to get away with sneaking in….but of course, by Divine Providence, there, leaning against the back wall was the pastor. He looked over at me with no hint of surprise that I had just come walking through the doors…. I hadn’t seen him in about 3 1/2 years….. and he opened his arms to give me a hug said “Welcome home, Amanda”. I am pretty sure he doesn’t remember saying that, or have any idea the impact those three words would have on my life. It was like God slammed into my heart what I had for some reason been trying to keep out for 4 months….this was where He wanted me to be, to call “home”, to serve, to be challenged, to feast, to have community, and to live life.
I sat on the back row and wept the entire service. I was “home”.
That was two years ago. I am more in love than ever with my church home. I have the amazing opportunity to serve in several different capacities, I have the honor of leading the most amazing girls on the planet who teach me far more than I could teach them, I have the joy of being part of a powerful intercessory ministry, and I have more community than I could ever hope to repay!
My life has been changed and is continuing to change as I begin to understand sanctification for the first time, as I learn how to think for myself and ask the challenging questions of my soul, as I have freedom to wrestle with God and the areas of life that have never quite fit in the traditional mold that I was brought up in.
My spirit rejoices as I am surrounded by people who love me, and who continually pour into me the truth that is ok to not be ok, it is just not ok to stay there. I have the unbelievable blessing of being led by a staff and elders that are real and humble and honest when they fail, that explain their struggles. Pastors that at one time walked in darkness as agnostics and continue to question all that God is and does, yet their faith pervades through those questionings and leads back to the throne of Grace.
My pastor always says that we are going to do the next 40 years together….well I have 2 down…38 more to go.