My husband and I describe ourselves as church junkies. We are those odd people who love to visit churches when we are on vacation. We love experiencing different styles of worship services and delight in the creative approaches we've seen in different denominations. We love practical, stirring messages delivered by passionate pastors, and I have to admit to sneaking out of the "tourist only" line at St. Mark's Basilica in Venice so I could sneak into a Sunday morning worship service, reserved only for church members. Never mind that every word was in Italian and I spoke only English. I had no clue when to sit or stand or how to use the prayer book tucked in the back of the seat in front of me. It didn't matter. I could feel God's presence even though I couldn't understand a word.
I love church. I love the chance to gather with others who love it too and worship a great big God who loves me so incredibly much. Gathering together is inspiring and encouraging. It's where I've formed lifelong relationships and had my most intimate friendship moments. It's also where I've had the deepest moments of pain.
Church is full of imperfect people who mess up and have to deal with self-centeredness and jealousy and evil thoughts every day just like every other human. We can know this in our head, but when we come face-to-face with it right in the church pew, it still catches us by surprise.1