For years, Wednesday nights were my favorite meeting of the week. You see, when we came to this church 10 years ago, I was 26 years old and clueless as to how to fit into this group of ladies who were all a good bit (anywhere from 20-50 years) older than me. So, I chose to just hang out with the youth. After all, Ronnie was the youth minister at the time, so it made perfect sense for me to spend most of my time with his group. And besides, they were a great group and I really did enjoy being with them.
But, after a year or so, I began to realize that I really didn't know any of the other adults. The ladies never included me in any of the planning for anything, never asked me to bring anything to functions. Basically, it seemed, that as far as they were concerned, I was just another youth. When I told Ronnie what I thought, he reminded me that they didn't even know me. I had never shown any interest in being a part of anything they did. I taught youth Sunday School and I helped Ronnie with the youth on Sunday and Wednesday nights. For once, I listened to him and so, with much trepidation, I decided to join the real adults on Wednesday nights.
I am not going to tell you that it was easy to fit into the group, but I will say that it was in those Wednesday night prayer meetings that I began to see the heart of these ladies who have now become so important to me. And it was in those Wednesday night prayer meetings that I began to understand what church is supposed to be.
Up to this point in my life, church had always been something to do. I had always gone to church but had never really grasped the fact that church isn't an activity.
My lack of understanding of the purpose of the Church was coupled with more anger than I really realized I was hanging on to over the actions of the church Ronnie had been serving when we were first married. I'll skip the gory details, but suffice it to say that Ronnie and I both walked away angry and hurt and wary of investing ourselves totally in another ministry. (It was nearly two years after we left that other church before we took this one.)
Fast forward to those Wednesday night prayer meetings that I mentioned earlier. I guess I should tell you what makes them different from other prayer meetings I have been involved in. It isn't complicated. We begin the meeting together, then after the singing and taking of prayer requests, the women and men split up. Each week, a different person brings a short devotion and then we spend time in prayer.
At this point you are probably thinking, is that it?
Yes, that is it. And it made all the difference in the world to me. I thought that I would easily be able to explain the reasons why this group of women meeting together and sharing our burdens has become so much a part of who I am, but as I type this I am finding the words hard to come by.
Through the months and years that have passed since God led me (through the wisdom of my husband) to join with the adults on Wednesday nights, I became one of them. I don't think I ever truly understood the importance of this in my life until I found out that my mother had cancer. There were many nights that I fought to contain my tears as I listened to them pray for her (and me) by name. Not only did they pray for us, they shared their own experiences, even the painful ones, with me so that I could understand how God had carried them through those experiences and know that He would do the same for me and my family. On more than one occasion I felt a compassion and understanding that I had never experienced in any group before.
This was the Church in action. These ladies weren't attending church ... they were actively, purposely allowing the Holy Spirit to work through them and minister to my life and to the lives of the other women in that room.
I can't say that every woman in those meetings experienced the same thing that I did. I can only say that I have no doubt that God used what I experienced to bring me to a greater understanding of what the role of the church is in the life of a Christian.
I am not sure why I felt compelled to share this story with you. (To be honest, I will be surprised to find that many people have even stuck with it to this point.) I only know that church has been on my mind and heart for a long time now. Sometimes, even in this group that helped me begin to understand what church is supposed to be, I still feel like we are just playing church. I can't explain it, but sometimes I feel that we are on the edge of really experiencing a life-changing outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but I am not sure that we are even looking for that moment, much less passionately seeking it. I can't even tell you that I am where I need to be in this, but I can tell you that I desperately don't want church to just be another activity on my weekly list of things to do.
I am going to end this post now, even though I am really still only half through with my story. The rest of the story will have to wait for another day ... and I am sure that if you have managed to hang on this far, you are thankful that I am done for now.