I've been reading about Fellowship in my devotional book A Year With God. Fellowship in this book is defined as "engaging with other disciples in the common activities of worship, study, prayer, celebration, and service, which sustain our life together and enlarge our capacity to experience more of God." Since my bout with mono and now chronic fatigue, I have been unable to attend church regularly. I miss going. As a pastor's kid, church is in me. It was a second home growing up. I wanted to be there on Sunday mornings, Wednesday nights, for all the youth group trips. And not just because I had a crush on Chris Robinson, either. Although, he was the reason I tried the church softball league, but that didn't last because...well, I feared that hard ball coming toward me. But other than that, I loved being involved at church.
I realize that most people don't understand chronic fatigue. I don't understand it and I'm living it. Chronic fatigue is this diagnosis doctors give you when they can't figure out why you feel so lousy. And I know that there are those out there who shake their head and think it's all psychological. To them I say, if I could, I would trade bodies with you for a few days and then we can talk. All I know is that my body is not the same since mono.
It appears to people that I have great health and I'm full of energy because I teach fitness classes. I've taught classes for over 20 years and when you are an instructor, you learn to put on your game face and teach through all kinds of difficulties. I've put on a smile and taught when I was grieving the loss of my sister, going through struggles with our marriage, going on no sleep from being up with newborn babies, coming down with the flu, sick with a cold, and so on. You can't always find a sub or cancel a class every time you need to.
Now I want to write this next part with as much grace and compassion as I can. From the outside it appears I am fine and because of this I've had some of my friends question the reason why I was not attending church. I know their inquiries came out of a deep love for me. And I get it. I know what it looks like. How can I teach fitness classes, but not get up and go to church on Sunday? All I can say is once my body is done, it's done, and that is usually after a full week. Sunday has literally become a day of rest for me.
But I would be lying if I said their questioning didn't sting. I watch my family leave on a Sunday morning and many times I am in tears, and then to have friends concerned that I am choosing not to go to church was painful. Not long ago, I witnessed this same kind of questioning regarding church attendance of a mother of a child that has special needs. This happened on Facebook. Someone questioned why she didn't go to church and reminded her how important attending church was. This mom is unable to attend regularly because of the needs of her child.
So as lovingly and gently as I can I am going to say...we are missing something very crucial. We sit comfortably in our pews on a Sunday morning while people in our own church family are alone. And whether or not you fully understand or think they are choosing to stay home is not the issue. And as I have prayed about this and processed it I have mourned the times when I missed the opportunity to reach out. I've thought about the times before my grandma passed that I could have gone to her house and had church with her in her home on a Sunday.
We cannot be all things to all people. I think that a lot of people in the church are burned out from trying to serve in every capacity and feeling guilty they aren't doing enough. And yet I wonder if less could be done inside the church walls on a Sunday and more done outside. What a difference we could make in the life of a mom with a child who has special needs if a couple of us left the comfort of our pews, gave up our time to sit on a Sunday singing worship songs and listening to the sermon. What if we brought church to her? What if once a month, instead of my grandma sitting in her home alone watching Charles Stanley on her television, I had gone over and spent a Sunday worshipping with her? Can you imagine the rich time of fellowship we would have had together?
What does it really mean to be a church body? Are we only connected because we sit in the sanctuary together every Sunday? Yes, attending church is vital. But being the church is more vital.