Psalm 122:1 I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
I can remember as a child not being very glad when my mother said to me, “It’s time to go to church.” I know some of my children feel that way, too.
For me, I sat there in that big cold building with incredibly high ceilings and velvet cushions on the pews, and counted the minutes until the service would be over. Sometimes I played tic-tac-toe with the minister’s son on the velvet by drawing with my finger and moving the nap of the fabric. Sometimes I studied the stained glass windows. Sometimes I used the I-have-to-go-to-the-bathroom excuse to escape some of it. Sometimes I looked around at the other people in church — many of the them were sleeping, my father included in that bunch. He would say that he was “just resting his eyes” but he sure looked like he was sleeping. I never felt glad that I was there.
Church was cold, boring and impersonal. The minister tried. He preached sermons on popular topics and books. I remember a sermon on Richard Bach’s Jonathon Livingston Seagull. There was one sermon on a book called Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus for which he had somehow gotten a bunch of butterflies (not real ones) up in the rafters of the sanctuary and then pulled a string so that they all fluttered down at a key point in the sermon. You would think that a kid would like that. You would think that kid would look forward to going to church if stuff like that happened. But I didn’t.
One day, however, I was walking the Emmaus Road which is my life, and someone came along side to walk with me and talk about the things that concerned me. That person was Jesus. I found a relationship with a living God in that moment, and it changed everything.
This past week I found myself counting the days and minutes and hours. I was enduring what I perceived to be a horrible trial with my mother visiting. Sometimes, all I could think of was how much longer this trial would go on. If you’ve ever babysat a crying inconsolable baby, you’ll know what I mean. You watch the clock, waiting for that appointed time when the parents would come home and the trial would be over.
You watch the clock like a child waiting for church to be over. The drumming of her fingers on the table was not unlike the droning of a minister saying words that mean nothing to you. You count the minutes. How much longer before this is over?
The thing missing in church all those growing-up years was a relationship — not a relationship with the other attendees, but a relationship with God Himself.
And I think that is what makes it so difficult with my mother these days. The relationship is missing. We’ve lost something intangible. Yet over and over in the scriptures, we are told to minister to those who are in the greatest need — the widows, the prisoners, the poor.
44“Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’
45“Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’
All week long, I missed the mark. I’m still looking for a relationship with my mother, and become frustrated when it isn’t there. I become frazzled. But just as Jesus opened the eyes of His walking companions on the Emmaus Road, he opened my eyes. She has become “the least of these.” When I care for her, I am caring for Someone with whom I have the dearest relationship. I don’t need to count the minutes. I need to count the blessings, and be thankful for the opportunity.
This morning, I am glad that I can go to the house of the Lord. Not because of any gimmicks in the sermon, not because of a stunning building, not even because of the people that are there, but because I’m walking the Emmaus Road with my closest friend.
Who am I? I am just a sojourner on the Emmaus Road walking with Jesus.