The boys are in the midst of their fourth week of school. Transitioning to a new school in a new community has been both exciting and challenging.
On a typical morning the boys wake up at six and head straight downstairs to watch cartoons until Brandon and I can shake the haze of midnight feedings and get ourselves out of bed. A few mornings ago Graham switched things up and instead of heading downstairs, climbed into bed and snuggled. In the midst of my haze he whispered in my ear “Mom I miss Miles City…. I am starting to forget what my friends’ faces look like.” The haze disappeared instantly as my heart broke into a thousand pieces.
That same day, Micah struggled at school and as we talked about it over our mid-afternoon snack he shared that he missed his friends and even though he was getting to know people here, everyone else knows each other better and he misses being comfortable with everyone. “Comfortable”— I asked him what he meant. He said that he misses playing with people that he has known since preschool, people who just know him.
I am not a territorial pastor. I believe that some people “fit” in some congregations, and other people “fit” in other congregations. I don’t get defensive if the congregation I am serving isn’t for everyone. I am quick to let people know that if we aren’t the congregation for them, please let me know and I will try to help them find the right one. I want people to find where they are comfortable and where they can most tune in to what God is doing in their life. I have actually told people to just keep looking until they find where they are “comfortable.” I think a lot of us who have looked for a congregation to call our own has used the term:
“I knew instantly that Federated was the church for me, I just felt comfortable.”
“We are trying out different churches until we find one where we feel comfortable.”
But after my conversations with the boys and thinking about our new ministry here in Anthem, I am realizing that “comfort” isn’t what we are actually looking for. The old recliner in my living room growing up was “comfortable.” Sweatpants are “comfortable.”
Brandon and I have been enjoying reading through the book of Acts. At the end (vs 45, the Voice translation) when sharing about the followers of Jesus, it says “there was an intense sense of togetherness”…
An intense sense of togetherness…that is what I want. Honestly I think that is what we all yearn for. Not to just share space with other people, not to just exist together through casual interactions, but to feel an intense sense of togetherness. To be known and to know others. To truly be seen, and heard, and cared for. To be missed if absent, or noticed if we are sad. Connection. Intimacy. Vulnerability. When I have prayed that others will find a congregation where they are “comfortable” this is what I have always meant— I hope you find a congregation where you feel an intense sense of togetherness.
I am so grateful that my history has been speckled with experiences of intense togetherness. Friends when I was in school who knew the good and the bad and loved me regardless. The congregation I grew up in that challenged me, empowered me, but above all else loved me for who I was then and who I was in the process of becoming. My neighbors in seminary where we knew each other’s struggles, prayed for each other’s dreams, and popped in for spur of the moment dinners or a pint of pumpkin ale.
I have also experienced times when I didn’t have this— when I never felt truly connected to others, when I was lonely in a crowd, when I felt as if no one would notice if I went missing. It was painful. It was isolating. I don’t think that is God’s desire for us.
We all have had times when we have experiences this “intense sense of togetherness,” and the lack there of. I hope that we realize how important that deep connection is— to find our people, our tribe, our “framily” (friends who feels like family). I pray my boys will find their group soon, where they are known and missed and cared for. This is my hope not just because it “feels” better, but because it is in this sort of environment of intense togetherness that amazing things happen and we are able to live into our true potential while encouraging others to do the same.
When I was in college I church shopped for a bit. I tried the churches that all of the students went to and a handful of others. I eventually went to a little church called Federated. I sat in a pew and looked around. There weren’t any other college aged people that Sunday. I listened to the sermon, it wasn’t particularly memorable. But I remember sitting there and tears filling my eyes, because I felt it. That place was going to be my place, those people were going to be my people— even in those first moments I felt the intense sense of togetherness. That sanctuary did become my place, and that congregation did become my people. It was there that I met Brandon, did ministry, was fed and loved, and was encouraged to go on to seminary. Brandon and I were invited back to preach there this past Sunday— the feeling is still there. Federated will always be one of my “intense sense of togetherness” places. I am grateful it wasn’t the last, and I am hopeful that God is in the process of creating a new one here in Anthem.
I pray you will take a moment to thank God for the places and people that have embodied the feeling of intense togetherness in your life. Let us help others find their own and invite them into our’s. May God help us to find true intimate connections— connections that feed our souls, inspire our passions, and encourage us to strive to love others more fully.
(photo credit: “Together” by Andrea Passonia (CC BY 2.0) )