“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” <– An overused cliché, yes, but it’s true.
Since it was Good Friday and Easter this weekend, I decided to go to the services at Westgate Chapel. I hadn’t been there in, oh, maybe a year? Perhaps longer? But I really wanted to attend church with my family this weekend.
As expected, it felt strange and kind of surreal to walk through those doors again. But more than anything, it felt familiar and safe. For the first time since I’d left the church, I realized how much I’ve missed it. Over the last few months, I have visited a handful of churches, but while I was sitting in my seat this morning, this newfound appreciation for my old church suddenly snuck up and overwhelmed me. I sat there, thinking a number of thoughts, but mostly the following two:
First, no one delivers a sermon like Pastor Alec. I’m sure if he read this, he’d reprimand me for saying that; he’s just the type of guy who wants as little recognition for himself as possible. (I love him for that!) He realizes his role—to be a messenger of God’s Word to God’s people—and does whatever he can to stay within the boundaries of that role…NO self-glory involved. But man, I’m tellin’ ya! I don’t know what it is (other than the obvious anointing of the Holy Spirit), but that man has a serious gift. God has truly called him to preach the Word. And he does an amazing job of fulfilling that calling. So hearing him speak again—and not through an online podcast—was a great delight.
Second, it feels good to be home. Truth be told, this particular thought caught me off-guard. I don’t know, I guess I was just so convinced that I didn’t belong at Westgate anymore. But today, it just felt right to be there.
This isn’t to say that I’m suddenly going to drop my commitment to Westside and come running back to Westgate. I truly enjoy Westside. And I believe that God took me there for a reason. But today served as an eye-opener of sorts; it proved to me that (a) I was harboring bitterness towards Westgate, even though I had convinced myself that I wasn’t. (Denial much?) (b) It also confirmed for me the fact that God has helped me to finally let go of that bitterness. In other words, I guess I finally admitted that I had certain negative feelings towards my old church, and in return, the Lord helped me overcome those feelings. Thus, I felt safe and very much at home again and was able to actually appreciate the service.
Basically, today gave me the closure that I needed in terms of my relationship with Westgate Chapel. ‘Cause that’s really what it is: a type of relationship. And from now on, instead of dancing a dance of avoidance and pretending that Westgate’s a stranger in my life, I can say, “Hello, friend. It’s good to see you again.” This attitude could not have developed in my heart if it weren’t for my absence from Westgate (and God’s work in my heart, of course). So, while the statement is cliché, it nonetheless rings true: absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
P.S. I was able to bring a couple of friends to church with me. That was a lot of fun! They both seemed to enjoy the service, too. =)