More and more on my social media feeds I have been seeing a lot of churches boast of the cool, trendy new initiatives that they have begun. I have seen pictures of coffee bars that resemble Starbucks. I have seen lighting that resembles one seen on Broadway. I have read catchy sermon titles and have seen how people have brought the movies into their sermons. But I have not seen many changed lives.
The Need for Changed Lives
My husband passed away February 14, 2017, after a two-year battle with cancer.
(The last picture I took of my husband and I. He was so tired yet forced a smile.)
To say he battled cancer is an understatement. He was hospitalized two weeks out of every month during the first year. He was hospitalized a total of 18 times. He was rushed to the emergency room eight times. He spent hundreds of days separated from his two children. And eventually the chemo, designed to get rid of the cancer, caused him to be paralyzed. And for the last four months of his life he was paralyzed and confined to a bed.
My husband endured cycle after cycle of chemo. He was separated from his children many nights. He was hooked up to chemo for 24 hours at a time. He listened to the doctors tell him bad news after bad news. He was left paralyzed and unable to get out of bed. And he never said how much he appreciated the coffee bar at the church. Never once did he say he loved the lighting in the sanctuary. He never told me how cool it was that they put a couch on the platform. He didn’t boast of the graphics and props on the platform. He talked about Jesus. He quoted scriptures. He reminded me of sermons we had heard. And in the middle of the night he sang songs of praise and worship to God and he spent his time praying. Because nothing a church does to strategize to bring in members helps you in the time of the storm. It is only Jesus who can bring about changed lives.
(My son holding Mel’s arm the day we had to put him on life support.)
On February 13 I had the most difficult task of telling my children their dad was not going to make it, and the next day at 7:24 the doctors declared him dead. And as I lay next to my children at night listening to my daughter sob uncontrollably because she misses her dad so much, I am not thinking about how trendy my church is. I am thinking that my strength comes solely from God.
I don’t have my best friend with me anymore. And even though I take comfort in knowing he is in heaven, I can’t talk to my husband. I can’t text him during the day. I can’t share with him my frustrations. I can’t hold his hand. I can’t hug him. I can’t kiss him. He is not here. And as I drive to church during the week, I am not thinking that I am so glad the leadership are reading “how to grow your church” books and adopting cool sermon series. I am thinking how desperately I need Jesus.
As I look at two young children who now have to grow up without their amazing dad by their side, I am not thinking of how it was so awesome that the minister related the message to a Hollywood film. I am thinking of how much I need Jesus.
(They spend a lot of their day laughing and playing, but at nighttime that is when the tears come.)
When church leaders sit around and discuss how they can reach people, I don’t think they have the widow in mind. I don’t think they have the cancer patient in mind. I don’t think they have the children who are growing up without a parent in mind. I am not paying attention to the church décor when I walk through the doors. I don’t want to smell fresh brewed coffee in the lobby. I don’t want to see a trendy pastor on the platform. I don’t care about the graphics or the props on the platform. I am hurting in a way that is almost indescribable. My days are spent working full-time. My nights are spent homeschooling and taking care of two young children. I don’t have shared duties with a spouse anymore; everything is on my plate. And when I go to church I desperately want to hear the Word of God. I need to be reminded of his power to comfort us in our changed lives.