We had the fun of going to visit friends this weekend whom we've known almost 4 years. They live just over an hour from us and have wanted us to come to church with them for a while to start meeting people there. We went down yesterday and had a fun time hanging out, eating ice cream, playing games and watching our crazy kids all have a blast. Then this morning we joined them for church.
Anyone who has known us for some length of time, or anyone who has walked with us along this journey this year, knows that we have been to a decent number of churches. We have been to all kinds: loud, soft, traditional, small, gigantic, some with enormous kids programs, some where we are the only ones to teach the kids, charismatic, liberal, conservative, international, etc. The list goes on and on. That, and working in as many and as diverse of churches as we have the past 10 years, we've seen our fair share of church things. This morning, I realized how we've become sort of "professional" at this whole visiting church thing. Our friends were very considerate and making sure we knew where things were, introducing us to people, and helping us with getting our kids all checked in to their classes. The funny part was-it didn't even feel like we were new. It wasn't that we knew a bunch of people there, it was just we've done this whole routine and been the visitors a few times this last year especially. In fact, we've been the visitors at least 16 times-that's 1/4 of this last year. My kids don't even blink at new classes and they call any kids they meet "my new friend so-and-so." Teachers remark on how well they did (which is much less a testament to us and more so to the number of times they have done it). The kids always love hearing a bit of the music and comment how any song they recognize is "one that daddy sings!" with wonder and excitement as if it is pure coincidence that church is singing it too. (I don't think they've figured out most churches sing similar songs for worship).
And while the kids do well, it can be too easy for Ty and I to also "do well." We can put on our smiley missionary faces and meet and greet people, answering the "where are you from" questions as simply as we can-which trust me is NOT always that easy given our last year! We have learned not to feel too much in regards to what we think about church because quite honestly, we would be super critical otherwise. It takes every effort on our part to join that body, that family, as one of theirs for the day instead of just as an observer. After all, we are all adopted into the same family right? I know my heart has totally moved from an "us/them" mentality to seeing all these smaller bodies as part of the global church which we are so privileged to be part of. That takes the critical eye away and replaces it with an authentic joy to be there and a real desire to know these brothers and sisters and be known. It has truly been a picture of the large Church but God had to work on my heart to move me from what I thought it was supposed to be (the plastered smile, the good missionary answer, etc). It is kind of fun taking in all kinds of services though. Especially ones like today where the Word is brought!!! Man we heard preaching this morning-I'm still processing and may try to capture a bit of it here this week. In the meantime though, I'm thankful that we get to visit churches for our job. And as we listened to/watched a new missionary give his talk this morning and ask for people to consider partnering with him it was unique to get to be on the other side of the picture and be listening to his ministry instead of sharing ours.
After church we had more friends over to celebrate a "gotcha day." For those unfamiliar, it's a celebration of the day a child was adopted! We watched the Packers win to go to the Super Bowl and we laughed and talked about all kinds of things. And this was all with 7 kids running around for 3 hours. So for tonight this missionary/professional church visitor is just one thing after a packed weekend: tired! Goodnight-hope you heard the Word this morning and will apply it all week.
Carolyn & (sometimes) Ty