What follows is Chapter 2 of a five-part story stemming from just an hour and a half of time spent with God’s people, in God’s house, in response to God’s direction.
Dressed and in the car on my way to church, I felt a familiar fear welling up inside me. One of the things I hate more than anything else in the world, is having to sit by myself in church. It’s one of a few times in life that my singleness hurts the most. Sitting in church by myself is a reminder that I am on my own. As an extreme introvert, who also struggles with shyness stemming from an expectation of rejection, that hour and a half are pure torture if I have no one to sit with. With three services, there’s never a guarantee that someone I know well enough will show up. Yes, it’s probably a pride issue that God and I need to deal with, but at the moment, it can make church a very painful place to be.
As I drove to church, I might have mentioned this to God. Again. Several times. I had taken a step of obedience when I left my comfy chair, got dressed and left the house. And I was afraid I would regret it.
So I asked God for a few things: 1. Someone to sit with (obviously), 2. A tangible reminder that He loves me, and 3. That I would experience the joy that comes from obeying God’s direction.
I was fully prepared to go 0/3, because after all, church isn’t about me and who I do or do not sit with. Church is about God, worshipping God, and spending time with God. When I focus on the fact that I’m sitting in the pew by myself, with space on either side of me, my focus is in the wrong place, and I feel guilty about that (more on guilt at a later date).
It’s a difficult place to be where you’ve prayed but experienced more disappointment than joy. The Bible says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). Even in my most honest moments, I see more disappointment in my past than desires fulfilled. So I have gotten in the habit of giving God an “out” when I pray for something specific.
That morning, as I asked for those three specific things on my way to church, I again gave God an “out” in reminding myself that church isn’t about me. But when I think about it, I think that maybe all I did was paint a perfect picture of James 1:6. My “out” was really my doubt.
But God, in His mercy, answered all three of those prayers with a resounding “Yes, Yes, Yes!” Someone who loves me (and who I love back) left her seat specifically to sit with me. I got my fill of hugs from people who were genuinely happy to see me, and who told me specific things they had been praying for me. And I got confirmation of a truth with which I had been wrestling just an hour earlier (more on that later, too).
I drove into my church parking lot with more fear than faith. But because I obeyed when God said “Go”, I left with joy in my heart and thanksgiving on my lips.
Obedience can be hard. It can take us from a comfortable place and dump us in a harsh environment. It can be counterintuitive. It can be painful, scary and dangerous. But disobedience is so much worse. Disobedience more often than not results in unpleasant consequences. But obedience? Obedience brings joy, peace and fulfillment. Obedience is never the wrong choice.
When was the last time you experienced the joy of obedience?