Colorado Springs had only two PCA churches that we knew of when we lived there. One was the ginormous Village 7; the other the very small Grace. I believe (though I could be mistaken) that V7 was planted by Grace many years before. Anyway, not a lot of options if you wanted to be in a PCA church.
Not so with St. Louis, which is the Baskin Robbins of PCA churches: you pick the flavor you like best and presto! Presbyterianism on a cone. About the only thing going for us when we moved here was that we’d finally realized we fit most closely in the PCA, so that took a bunch of other denominations off the table for us from the beginning.
Craig had a contact at one big church (Church A) who actually knew about Craig because of his book and one of the associate pastors asked him to teach their twenty-something Sunday School class for the month of June. That answered part of the “where should we go first?” question. Craig had met the senior pastor of Church A before, and this pastor actually offered Craig a paid internship at the church. This pastor was an amazing preacher/teacher, and sitting under his teaching consistently would have been wonderful.
I, however, had a hang-up with my perceived wealth of the church. I’m not proud of that, but I struggled seeing all the women dripping in jewels every week with their designer everything while I wore the same dress each week with my beat-up sandals. It was a pride issue, but as I thought I would continue to struggle with it, I suggested we at least try out few other places before deciding.
We went to Church B next – small and in an old building in the middle of a neighborhood. Good church, extra-long service. Nice experience, but not sure it was for us.
Church C was another of the mega-churches in town – large, suburban, and very white. We went on “name-tag” Sunday, which meant that that Sunday we were greeted by pretty much everybody, which was strange and a bit cheese-ball. We sang a U2 song in the service and our kids were served a helping of Brother Bob and Pastor Larry. This one wasn’t the right one for us, either.
The next Sunday we went to Church D. I have no idea what exactly happened that morning to cause this reaction, but when Craig and I both walked out that morning, we felt this was the one. I don’t think we even went anywhere else again. We joined this church two months later, Craig began teaching Sunday School, and I also began teaching Sunday School. We also began what would be a long, good, hard, wonderful, hair-pulling, fabulous, heart-wrenching church experience.
I am not going to sit here and tell you that I ever expected to be in a church without problems or sin; to say that would be to expect to attend a church without people. Thus, when issues began to arise, we did our best to handle them biblically. We spent a lot of time talking to people rather than about them; we employed the principles of Matthew 18; we cried (okay, I cried).
I also laughed too. We met a lot of really great, really wonderful people at this church. These people were what made us pause when, 2.5 years into this, I began really struggling with some things that were simply out of my control, but not out of my path. I began crying every Sunday at even the thought of going to church. I was afraid of some of the people. I was drained by trying to use my gifts, but being thunked on the head for doing so. I told Craig I felt like I was in a human game of “Whac-a-Mole” and I was the mole. Do what you want to with that analogy – maybe I really was a mole. I began to think so, at least.
The godly people at the church who had spent time with us and whom we as a whole family loved walked us through this process. With their blessing, we decided to begin looking around a little. I withdrew from my teaching position and began teaching the girls Sunday School at home, going in for church afterward. Three months into this, however, neither Craig nor I had any peace about leaving: we really sensed God asking us to stay another year.
We did so. We put the girls back in Sunday School, Craig picked up another round of teaching, but I stayed away from teaching because of my fear of those over me. That fall I was asked to resume. With some trepidation, I consulted with Craig and we agreed for me to re-enter. We started helping with the Wednesday night kids’ program and were really doing the best we knew to serve how we could.
And then came another round of the rubber mallets. It had been a year since I’d been crying on Sundays, but all of that tension resurfaced and I began feeling it physically again. I started praying that God would renew my heart for the church or he would guide Craig’s away. I had done more than my share of complaining; I didn’t want to nag Craig away from the church, but I was hurting. I begged God to use all of this for good, but I continued to struggle.
And then it happened. When I least expected it, and on the heels of a Sunday morning congregational meeting that I didn’t attend, Craig told me that he’d decided it was time for us to move on. He said I should tell those I needed to regarding my teaching position that at the end of December we would no longer be at Church D.
We spent 3.5 years there. Now if you’ve read my whole long, sordid church history, you know that 3.5 years was really a long time for us to be somewhere. It was the longest we’d been anywhere during our whole married life together; as a result, it was the hardest one to leave. As much as I felt tension and even fear in being there, I felt more that we were betraying friends we loved there by leaving.
I do not know what going through a divorce feels like, but I can only imagine that we experienced something similar to it, at least emotionally. But it didn’t only affect us, it also affected our kids. While too young for the first half of our married church history to really know any different, they were now old enough to be affected by change as well. We were worried that yet another transition might push them too much, or might make them begin to doubt things that we said we believed.
So we prayed. A lot. And this past December we sat them down in our living room and began to tell them a story. A story of sadness, but one of hope. We told them we were moving again. And we cried with them. And then we told them we had a plan that we hoped they would trust. They looked at us with questions in their eyes and we told them where we planned to go next.