A few months ago, I rediscovered a quote from Anne Lamott that I’ve always loved. Citing her young son’s frustration that she drags him to church every Sunday, she answers the question (per the essay’s title) “Why I Make Sam Go To Church”:
The main reason is that I want to give him what I found in the world, which is to say a path and a little light to see by. Most of the people I know who have what I want – which is to say, purpose, heart, balance, gratitude, joy – are people with a deep sense of spirituality. They are people in community, who pray, or practice their faith; they are Buddhists, Jews, and Christians – people banding together to work on themselves and for human rights. They follow a brighter light than the glimmer of their own candle; they are part of something beautiful.
In the darkness of this year’s Advent – when I find myself frustrated by universal church and local church alike – I find hope in the glimmer of this candle: remembering why I want to be a part of church at all.
Church is bigger than changes of words. Church is bigger than a single pastor’s flaws. Church is bigger than my own pet peeves.
Church is the Body of Christ, wildly diverse in its members but all needing each other. Church is a Spirit whose dance refuses to die. Church is a people trying to understand a God, a beautiful mess of saints and sinners. Always has been, always will be.
And the reason I make myself go to church, the reason I want church to be a part of my children’s lives, is precisely what Anne names.
It is good to be surrounded by others who are trying to answer life’s big questions and understand the truth of God. It is good to spend time every week in a place that both challenges and comforts you. It is good to pray shoulder to shoulder with people you agree with and people you disagree with. It is good to be part of something bigger than yourself.
I have no illusions that my kids’ relationship with church will be smooth and easy. Church will certainly bore, annoy, anger, disappoint, or confuse them at times. But my deeper hope, my dream of faith, is that church will also inspire them, support them, teach them, love them, offer them a light brighter than the glimmer of their own candle.
Church is both beautiful and maddening. I suppose we all are.
And I suppose I wouldn’t have it any other way.