For many years my feet have stood planted on the same hardwood floors, hands firmly grasped on the wooden back of the church pew in front of me. Some Sundays met with swaying and smiles, others with tears, heartache, and questions. In that same space, on the same row of church pews in the same small country church, my faith has flourished, my faith has been challenged, my faith has struggled, my faith has grown.
The term “since before you were born” rings no truer than when talking about my upbringing in the church. It was where my parents brought me as an infant and dedicated me to the Lord, where I ran after children’s church to my dad’s lap, where I snuck naps and snacks hiding in the pew when I was too young to pay attention to the sermon.
Those church pews were the ones that held my family when my dad got sick, when his cancer worsened, and where we said our final goodbye to him. That same wooden floor is where I stood as a middle schooler questioning what it meant to be a Christian, as a high schooler trying to figure out how to live in the world but not of it, and even as a college student when I was maturing in my understanding of the beauty of Scripture and being a disciple of Christ.
The foundations of my faith were shaped within those wooden walls. The trials, the heartache, the seasons of joy, the wrestling against the big questions of life were dealt with in those church pews and at that altar. That same church pew has been a space that my life has existed for its entirety.
I stood in that same place this past weekend. I don’t get to visit quite as often as I used to, but every time I do I leave incredibly grateful. As I stood in my normal spot next to my family, I looked down at my hands placed where they have fallen many times before. I noted the scratches and scuffs in the wood around them and wondered how many were put there by me. What stories I bet they could tell.
There is no power in that church pew. Nothing miraculous about those wooden floors where my heels dig in. But in that place is where the Lord has met me time and time again. This weekend I couldn’t help but recall His faithfulness to me. From the little girl running to her father’s arms to the now-married woman learning daily to rely on the Heavenly Father.
In our youth group at the church my husband and I attend in Montgomery, we’ve been talking a lot about testimonies. Many of the students in our youth group have similar stories to mine. Most of them have also been raised in a local church from the time they were young. We talked with them about how several of them feel that do not have much of a story to tell. Standing in that church pew on County Road 44 this weekend reminded me of mine.
If you’ve been around church your whole life, it’s easy to go along with the motions of things. There are some dangerous places those motions will take you if you’re not careful.
1. You can live your whole life assuming there is some kind of saving power in a church building.
You can miss the Gospel and assume “salvation by relation”. Sister or brother – repent and believe. Going to church cannot save you any more than going in the ocean makes you a fish! (Sounds silly – but it’s true!) No amount of church services you attend can take away your sins. In Christ alone can you know true hope.
2. You can be puffed up in pride and not even realize it.
A sin I struggled with (read: STRUGGLE with) is pride. I’ve been taught the Bible since the time I was born. It’s easy to think that this earns you some kind of “Christian merit” and you can walk around like you can do no wrong, casting judgment on all those who struggle outwardly with sin. Brother and sister – check your heart. Ask the Lord to humble you and show you your sin. You must rely on Him as your Savior no matter how many Bible verses you can quote.
3. You can become numb to the true message of the Gospel.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that we were dead in our trespasses and sins – all fall short of the glory of God. Whether you’ve got a permanent spot in a church pew or not, you were wretched in sin without Christ. Your sin was serious. It completely alienated you from Christ. It’s easy to assume that because by the standards of the world you aren’t “that bad” that God sees you the same way. Hardly. Sin brings death, and God cannot be associated with it.
Even if you realized your need for a Savior at a young age – you DO have a testimony! The Lord saved you from the miry pit, redeemed you, called you His own, and gave you the promise of eternal life. Every day since He has been sanctifying you through the Holy Spirit. That is an incredibly powerful story to tell. Brother and sister – don’t fall numb to the power of the Gospel.
I praise God for that front left pew in Blackwood Church where the Lord saved me. What an incredible gift of grace that I get to know Him as my Father. Don’t forget to remember your story and rejoice in the gift of salvation – no matter where you stood before you knew Christ.
This blog post was originally published at https://rememberingandrejoicing.wordpress.com/2021/09/21/tightly-gripped-church-pews/.
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