Every week, people at my work can gather for at least three different types of worship and prayer events.
We’re in a Christian workplace, and having opportunities to get together — to worship God, to read liturgy together, to sing a praise song, or to pray for each other — no matter what branch or denomination you come from, is an important part of our identity.
But in the six months that I’ve been at my job, do you know how many times I’ve actually gotten up from my desk and gone to the Friday service? Twice.
I’m usually pretty busy on Fridays. Today, I almost didn’t go, either. This service is smaller and more liturgical. That means I’d be with the type of people who go to a liturgical service every week. They probably know a lot more about Christian history and traditions than I do. They’ve probably done something prepare for it — like praying or reading the Bible beforehand. I hadn’t done anything like that. I didn’t feel Christian enough.
Lately, I’ve been making an effort to read the Bible more. I usually try to read it in the morning (by which I mean I pop open my Bible app and flip through a little). But I didn’t do anything this morning.
So I decided I wasn’t in the right mindset for being super-spiritual and going to a liturgical service. I figured I should wait until I was better prepared for the importance of this beautiful moment I would be taking part in.
But I decided to go anyway. And as I sat in a chair, in a circle of 15 people, gathered in a small room — reading ancient words and praying out loud for people in our community — I was overcome with a feeling.
It wasn’t the voice of God, it wasn’t anything audible. It was just a feeling. I stopped feeling guilty that I hadn’t prayed this morning. I stopped feeling bad that I hadn’t read from my Bible app.
I stopped feeling ashamed that I hadn’t been Christian enough to take part in this. Because the ENTIRE POINT of how God works is that it’s not about us being good enough. It’s not about us being Christian enough.
What matters is — that for the second time in six months — I decided to take the time to set aside 30 minutes out of my busy day.
I’d set aside 30 minutes of my day to show up. To tell Christ that he was more important to me than those 30 minutes of my lunch break that I could have been chatting with coworkers or answering emails.
At that moment, I was glad I’d decided to come. I got the feeling that God didn’t really give a crap if I’d prayed beforehand.
God was glad I’d decided to set aside 30 minutes of my day for God. As I sat in that room, I felt an overwhelming sense of being loved. It was a feeling — maybe a sense of the Holy Spirit nudging me in the right direction — but I know it was a feeling of warmth, calm, and love.
Christian faith centers around the strange, counter-intuitive concept that Christ loved us enough to die for us, and we did nothing to deserve it. Nothing we can ever do will earn our way into heaven. Heaven is given to us, if we choose to follow God.
But our job isn’t to be perfect. Our job is to show up. Yet, time and again, I don’t do Christian things unless I’m feeling good enough. I don’t volunteer at church. I don’t go to a special church service. I don’t do Jesus-y things unless I know I’ll do them well (and that isn’t as often).
But the more I dip my toe into volunteering at church and other “spiritual” things, the clearer it becomes how off-base that thinking is. I think God would rather I came to church or worship gatherings often and unprepared, instead of only the occasional times when I’m “ready.”
God doesn’t want perfect people. God wants people who show up. And people who show up all the time WON’T always be ready. We’ll have a much higher chance of messing up, saying something wrong, being in a bad mood, or otherwise sucking at life.
But we’re there. We’re showing up. And that is when God’s Holy Spirit is able to teach us more about God.
For the record, I’m not against praying, reading Scripture, or otherwise preparing before a liturgical service. But none of that is for God’s benefit. It would only be for mine.
Preparing with a spiritual discipline would be a way I could open myself up to be able to hear where the Holy Spirit is prompting me. It would cut through the clutter and allow me to better discern where God is leading.
It would be helpful for me, but it’s not something God requires. If I want to — because I like the benefits of it — great. But there is absolutely zero need for me to feel bad if I don’t. God isn’t sitting there judging me because I didn’t read my Bible before a worship service.
God is just glad that I cared enough to show up.
Choosing to live for God is hard. But the first step — in not just acting like a Christian, but truly living for God — is being willing to show up.
Why is that so easy for me to forget?