If you’ve attended church for any length of time, you’ve had one of those Sundays, when it seems getting out the door is the most difficult task of the week. Kids lose shoes, a pacifier hopelessly disappears from the diaper bag, arguments erupt about trivial things–some mornings everything seems to work against it.
I had one of those Sundays this week. I didn’t get to bed until late the night before. Then two hours later someone on our street shot a handgun. Not far from our house, I would say. We don’t live in a dangerous neighborhood, so it didn’t scare me as much as startle me awake. Adrenaline kicked in, and sleep was hopelessly over. I lay there planning the next few chapters of my newest novel while waiting to get tired. But I never quite dropped into deep sleep again.
Also, when I shot awake, I managed to get something in my eye. It hurt. It’s now Sunday afternoon, and it still hurts. Whatever is in there isn’t going anywhere. The act of squinting all morning gave me the worst headache, which combined with a lack-of-sleep headache until I felt sick to my stomach.
However, I showered and made it to church. I was tired. My eye was hurting and running all over the place. Head was aching. When I get too tired, my heart races, so I was listening to that and hoping I didn’t die before church let out. Right–fatigue is my number one trigger for anxiety attacks. Pain is number two. So between the lack of sleep and the pain in my eye… It was hopeless.
But I was there. I sat through it. I spent most of it hoping it would be over soon. I wanted to go home, rinse my eye out again, maybe try a nap, take an Excedrin, and not do the friendly fellowship thing while I felt like I was dying.
Today I was also supposed to bring a book for a friend. She offered to beta read a novel coming out in July, and I had that ready to go. Only she didn’t make it–car trouble. I wasn’t the only one fighting a battle concerning church today.
Clearly I survived. My eye will eventually shed whatever’s in it or heal if something scratched it. I will eventually catch up on sleep. Nobody will hold it against me that I wasn’t the friendliest person in church today. It’s all fine, even though it didn’t feel fine in the midst of it.
I forget sometimes that worship invites battle. It seems so easy to get up and go to a building and sit there. But so much more happens. God speaks and draws us close when we worship with our church families. We hear about needs we can fill. We sing praises to the one who made the universe. We hear from scriptures practical ways to live for God and invite others to live for him, too. Spiritual battle is very real, and those Sundays when it’s hard to get there–I don’t think those are coincidence.
The hard Sundays I tend to listen a little harder, look a little deeper. I don’t know if the attacks are random or if the enemy truly tries to keep me out on weeks when I most need to be there. But just to be safe, I want to make sure if there’s a message for me on the hard Sundays, I don’t miss it.
This Sunday, the message was one I can’t hear enough, the reminder that God is pleased with me because of Jesus, not because of anything I do. I can always use that reminder. I talk myself out of believing that on a daily basis. I can’t make God happy with me by doing good. I do good because I’m thankful God is happy with me. My head knows that’s true. But my heart can doubt. I need to hear it over and over until my heart finally believes it for good.
Today, while my eye was running and my head was pounding and anxiety about took me to the ground, God wanted to remind me of that. He’s happy with me. I’m a wreck sometimes, but that’s okay. He loves me. I obey because that truth is so important to me, but that truth stands regardless of how big a mess I am.
I truly hope next Sunday morning is easier than this Sunday was. But if not, I will do my best to show up to worship and listen to what God has to say. It is an honor and a privilege to worship with the people in my church, and I don’t ever want to take it for granted.