I love my church- I'm pretty open about that. I find my church to be a special place and I love my church family.
This past Sunday, our pastor gave yet another message that left me feeling like he's somehow digging around in my heart and in my brain.
It means family. It is said to be a Hawaiian word. But it means family in the extended sense of the term- not just blood relation but also adopted and intentional.
I really like that.
I love my family- my parents, Jeff's parents, siblings, aunts uncles, and so on. The love I have for my church family- my intentional family- is different.
Intentional. On purpose. Family on purpose. Isn't there something wonderful about that?
One point of the sermon on Sunday was that "there's a difference between attending a church service and belonging to a church family." That is so, so true. And having that church family? That is one of the main reasons I sought out a church home.
I've never doubted the existence of God. I've gotten angry with Him, I've doubted His wisdom, I've questioned my purpose... but my faith in God has always been steadfast. When I left home for college, my relationship with my church needed serious redefining. Going to college opened up this wiggling little question in my heart- Does God only love some people? It's kind of what I had been taught and it was kind of terrifying to think of how broken I knew I was at that time and to think that God, by the things I'd been taught about sin and sinners, might not love me in the way I thought God was supposed to love. So I turned away from church for a while.
It wasn't until I had a better personal definition of my relationship with God and had a more intimate understanding of my purpose that I suddenly realized that something was missing. It took me a while to figure out that what I needed was a home.
I visited a couple of churches when I moved to Indiana but none were quite right. I even joined one but mostly because a lot of my theatre friends were members there. I started getting involved with the choir but then the theatre thing took off and I left church in the dust. Life got crazy with new jobs and divorce and drama. Life got good again and I started a half hearted search when a friend suggested I come visit his church. I hemmed and hawed and eventually decided to go. From the moment I walked in the door, it felt different than anywhere I'd been before.
And now, 8 years later, I am fully part of this community, this family- my ohana.
My ohana reaches well beyond Sunday morning. These aren't people I just see on Sunday morning and then pretend to be excited to see again the next Sunday. These are people that I want to spend time with, that I am eager to know more about, that I want to be connected with.
In the sermon, the 4 main points were that my church family helps me refocus, helps me face life's problems, fortifies my faith, and helps me find purpose and meaning in my life. Check, check, check, and check.
Just like with any family- it isn't all sunshine and roses. My church and my involvement in it isn't all sunshine and roses. There are people that don't keep commitments or people who talk smack about others or people who get selfish or fights between friends. The same thing happens in any family, doesn't it? Someone says something that might hurt my feelings. Someone makes a choice that doesn't fit my agenda. There are people in my family that I don't get along with as well as others. People I don't know as well as others.
Finding my church home and my ohana has proven to be an immensely important part of my faith journey. Each person that I have interaction with, that I build a deeper relationship with, that I come to love and trust is an important part of my life.