“May the odds be ever in your favor,” she leaned over and whispered in my ear. I could feel the light weight of her body rest against me and her subtle perfume smell drifted through the air. I gave her a side glance, wide eyes, and a here-we-go-smile as our mutual understanding though silent was definitely felt. We were quiet observers. We watched the church goers file in continuously one after another as the sacrament meeting began or had long since begun. Eyes quickly glanced around looking for open seats. People were noticed and friends beckoned as “How Firm a Foundation” echoed up to our balcony seating. As the familiar structure of opening prayers, plodding hymns, and humble talks continued, I started thinking about my Sunday worship – spurred on from my friend’s earlier comment. Maybe she said what we were all thinking. I noted the vast shapes and ages, styles, and trials as they walked up the stairs. I liked the variation. It used to panic me.
Let me explain. My ward has six Relief Societies and three Elders Quorums. We number between 700-800 people strong. Or kind of strong, depending on whom you ask.
Welcome to the mid-singles ward. Let the games begin.
While the cold facts may conjure up images of huddled masses of desperation, to be fair, it’s quite functional from my perspective. Granted, I have the luxury and problem of being anonymous and coming and going as I please which breeds a type of complacency in my church going habits, but there are masses to be sure, but they include incredible worshipers, leaders, and people as well as what you may or may not be imagining.
I know how it is supposed to work. You go to church every Sunday. You take the sacrament and are quiet. There are hymns, talks, and lessons, a few hellos, conversations, and you leave with more holiness.
In theory. But there are a few things missing from that equation.
The week before the “hunger games” observation I received an email from a close friend living out of state with her husband and new baby. She said,
“It is so hard to go to church when Jack is screeching and everyone in Gospel Doctrine turns around to look at the show. Do I walk the halls? What is the point? I spent 4 years serving a very NEEDY ward and I feel a little spent/checked out now. A lot was asked of us – especially in my YW calling. And, I want a break. I know it is horrible to admit. I have a bad attitude about it and I don’t know how to shake it. I have never felt this way about church before- I’ve always done what was asked willingly. But, lately, I’d rather catch up on sleep.”
As I sat through the rest of the meetings I knew my intent needed recharging. That simply enduring three hours without my own resolve is not enough for my worship, for my strength, for my connection to the very reason that gets me to church each week. Hearing others’ honesty about the Sunday routine helped me realize I’m not the only one, and that some of the best souls struggle with worship as well- single and married. And it’s ok.
Church and testimony are cyclical, not a linear line of tasks that once completed can be checked off. If we come back again and again and strive outside of the arena just as much or more as we do on ‘game day’ we can learn and relearn the intricacies of true worship. I’ve let the sheer size and focus on socialness fade personal worship. I’m remembering it’s an inside job and largely how my Sunday worship goes is up to me. My focus and resolve has developed a strong sense of ADD on Sundays, and while understandable, church isn’t living up to its design. I’m realizing habits, thoughts, and actions spiraling over and over and over again is a necessary form of worship inside and outside of Sunday – and maybe that’s where the odds become in our favor.
Do you ever struggle getting to church, and once there remaining present? How do you make church meaningful while cutting yourself slack to the realities of your demands? What do you do to reevaluate why it is meaningful and important part of your spiritual life?
*post script: the day after I posted this I got a calling as compassionate service leader. Coincidence? I think not. I guess admitting I need to muster resolve from the inside out and start contributing or enhancing my worship was definitely heard in some way. Yikes:)