Transitions may excite you or fill you with dread. Whatever end of the spectrum you fall on, important pieces like changing jobs, making new friends, figuring out daily rhythms need to be sorted. Author and poet Sarah Wells recently went through all three of these shifts and shares her story in navigating these transitions. 

This Part 2 of a four part series on Difficulties of Transitions. Access the rest of the series here:

Changing Directions | Church Hunting | Life Together | Bringing the Word


 

I hate trying to find a church.

 

The last time we moved, Brandon and I fell by mercy into a community of believers that met our deep need for friendship and community. We only visited one other church in the land-of-a-thousand churches before we found 5 Stones Community Church.

 

5 Stones is filled with people who praise Jesus for his extravagant grace, make no claims of perfection but aspire to become the truest versions of themselves, and drape other people in that same outpouring of mercy and forgiveness. For realz, I know that was a lot of church-y talk and all, but I’m serious. Like all churches that exist here on earth, it has its battles and bruises, its history and its weaknesses. It’s made of a bunch of broken people covered by God’s grace, so that’s to be expected.

 

But at 5 Stones, we found a community of believers who did not hide themselves behind some antiseptic mask painted in Thomas Kinkade cottages with a two-thumbs-up smiling Jesus standing in front. Our friends love Jesus and beer. Our friends love Jesus and tattoos. Our friends love Jesus and young adult fiction. Our friends love Jesus and people who don’t look like them. Our friends and fellow Christ-followers at 5 Stones are themselves, exactly who God made them to be.

 

I loved our church community because it is one of the few places we’ve found in the broader Church world where it was okay to be fully us. Wildly us. Church wasn’t just the place we’d go to get our morals. It was the place we went when we had a miscarriage, and the church community fed us, with worship, with tears and hugs, and with food. It was the place we went to celebrate football victories and job victories and birth victories and donation victories and food bank victories. It was the place we went with a stranger in need and the church opened its arms, its homes, its bank account. It was the place we went with our hardest hurts and toughest temptations, and instead of condemnation we found mercy. Grace. Forgiveness. The muscle and tendons of love.

 

It took a while to establish those relationships, to build that trust, to put aside any awkwardness or stumblings of the church and love her anyway, love her because she pursued excellence but walked in grace. The “place” wasn’t Sunday morning church—church meant more than the hour of worship together. It was the community of people who came on Sunday but also met us for barbecues and music on Tuesdays or coffee and prayer on Fridays or softball and drinks and wings on Wednesdays.

 

Sunday, for me, was frosting, and I’m not a huge fan of frosting. I really like cake, though, and that’s what the rest of the week was about.

 

We have relocated recently, to a new town too far away from that community of believers. There is a cake shortage in my life. Still, I’m afraid to go back out there: I don’t want to eat only frosting. The wilderness of churches is trying so hard to convince me to worship with them. We’ve done the awkward handshake, meet-and-greet, here-is-a-coffee-mug-and-a-pen-please-come-again Sunday circuit of forced smiles and glee club enthusiasm. We’ve blended among the anonymous masses of the mega churches, slipping in for worship and out after the message, sipping our coffees and waving across the vestibule at a somewhat familiar face. We’ve settled at the table of the local diner after the latest pew warming and debriefed what we just witnessed.

 

This stuff takes work. It takes time. I’m not sure if I’m ready to date more congregations yet.

 

The church, she’s all dolled up in what strikes her as beautiful. Some churches put on icons and incense. Some wave flags and dance. Some sit and stand and kneel and sit and stand and kneel and stand. Some do the white-Midwestern-step-and-clap.

 

As the one holy and gigantic body of Christ, we are all called to gather together to praise the Lord, to hear the Word of God, to witness a small glimpse of his grace and mercy, to be reminded of his glory so it might reflect and shine on us and through us the rest of the week, to come together with other believers in freedom and celebrate.

 

The God of the Universe came here and walked around with us and showed us what it means to love, showed us how to walk like him. This is grace we’re talking about, people! We should be filled with joy! We should be filled with praise! That’s Sunday morning. Whatever bruises or binges or addictions or perfections that haunt me and the rest of the church all week are met by God’s grace and mercy, for these few minutes when we stand in the presence of holiness, and praise and praise and praise.

 

Isn’t that what church should be? Wherever we choose to worship—in the sanctuary built by men or in the sanctuary of the woods, at the altar by a cross or sitting on a bench.

 

Church, for me, right now, takes place in my kitchen on Sunday mornings when my family is waiting for the pancakes to finish cooking. Sometimes there is music and we sing. It is not fancy. We are not large. I don’t know that it will sustain us forever—I love to worship with other believers and to be led into the Spirit’s presence—but for now, my community is here in this kitchen. Without frosting.


 

 

This Part 2 of a four part series on Difficulties of Transitions. Access the rest of the series here:

Changing Directions | Church Hunting | Life Together | Bringing the Word