I was a big city girl (Houston and Dallas, the only places I had ever called home). Naturally, all I knew was the on-the-go lifestyle I lived— filled with fun social events, great restaurants, shopping and, yes, traffic, but honestly I wasn’t too bothered by it because I didn’t know any different. Even as a wife and young mom our calendar filled quickly.
I loved our life— our friends, our neighborhood, our mega-church, and the convenience of everything around us. So when my husband finished seminary and was called first to be an Assistant Pastor of a church-plant in a much smaller community an hour and half down the highway I was not altogether happy. Suffice it to say the move was hard… and not because of our newborn and an almost three year old we had in tow.
A Change of Heart
I longed for my friends, the familiarity of what we left behind, and for a ‘regular’ church— you know, the kind with a real church building and all the programs, Bible studies, and fellowship that come with it. Instead we now worshiped in a sparsely populated school auditorium with sub-par music and hardly anyone in my stage of life. I was frustrated and lonely, and to be honest, full of pride.
For the first time in my life I had to face learning to love and live alongside people who weren’t just like me. And you know what? A funny thing happened as I began developing relationships with the women in the church of all ages, various life stages, and socio-economic groups: God began changing my heart!
I began to love the inter-generational mix of women surrounding me. In fact, some of my closest friends in the church became women navigating life with teenagers at a time when I was in the throes of diapers. And though “parenting in the pews” is hard, I came to love that my children were welcomed participants in worship, even if my son did occasionally run down the aisle with light sabers blazing. It was normal to my kids to interact with adults. And the attention they received from the teenagers and college students made church-related functions the highlight of their little worlds.
As I grew in my understanding of God’s covenant relationship to his people, I began to see the beauty of the connectional aspect of our church body. By the time we left 7 1/2 years later (ironically to start a new church-plant), our little church in our relatively small-ish town had become family and it was hard to leave.
The Beauty of Covenant Community
Fast-forward three years later to my journal entry after a return visit:
“Being back with old church families this weekend made my son (who was the newborn when we moved there) sort of giddy. Huge smile. Constantly giving hugs and high-fiving the adults and teens. After arriving back home he told me it was one of the best trips ever. “Really? Our former hometown is certainly not Disney World, which at this point is what I would expect to qualify as his best trip ever!”
But what I realized is it was the presence of covenant family that led to such exuberant joy. He was among families who had literally known him all his life. Families who had stood on his baptism day, ten years prior, and vowed to help raise him as a covenant child. Families whom he knew had his back and loved him, and us. The very essence of this reality gave him such confidence that it exuded from him the entire weekend. He had nothing to prove to anyone, no reason to fear judgment or doubt their love. He was safe with these people.
What a blessing that through the Body, God had created this foundation and support system for my child without me even really realizing it. Exactly what the church body is meant to be according to God’s Word!”
Fast-forwarding again, I want to take you to our present reality:
Our oldest child recently moved out-of-state for college. Other than her roommate, who is a childhood church friend from that small-ish town, she knows relatively few people. But on her second day there — a Sunday — the now adult daughter of one of my old church friends who was raising teens while I was diapering, reached out to my girl. This young woman lives in the same college town so she initiated picking my daughter up for church. Not only this, but she wants to be like a big sister to my girl and make going to church together a regular Sunday habit! And she even introduced my daughter to a family in the church who in turn invited my daughter out for dinner.
Exactly what I’ve prayed for — my daughter to have a church home away from home and for individuals and families who will love and support her now that she is gone from me. I am beyond words at how special it is to witness the covenant connection between young ladies, who are years apart in age but feel bonded together from having shared the same Body. How thankful I am for an instant relationship in which my daughter feels safe and known even before her new journey really begins.
“…How beautiful the radiant Bride
who waits for her Groom
with His light in her eyes…
How beautiful the feet that bring
the sound of good news
and the love of the King.
How beautiful the hands that serve
the wine and the bread
and the sons of the earth.
How beautiful! how beautiful
how beautiful is the body of Christ. (Twila Paris)”