You know what’s been missing? JOY.
There are any number of reasons for this lack of JOY. One of those reasons, though, is the idea that we must do things “because.” There’s no phrase or clause after the “because.” Just doing things “because” can result in a loss of JOY.
I grew up going to church. Every Sunday. I believe we were at one time Lutheran – maybe a short stint as Presbyterian – and a fair number of years in the Baptist church. My mom played organ and piano. Dad was a deacon. My sisters and I attended Sunday school and then church, and, when we were very little children’s church. You know: that’s the part of the service where the little ones get called up to the floor near the pulpit, get a short object lesson of some kind from the pastor, and then get shuttled off downstairs for stale animal cookies, watered down koolaid, and cotton ball craft while the adults listen to Bible readings and a sermon.
(Full disclosure: I don’t know if that’s how church still goes in any of the places I have ever attended.)
I’m not singing hymns this morning; I did not have to get dressed up; I have not brought a casserole to share after the service; I do not intend to return later for a business meeting followed by Sunday evening services.
Because the fact of the matter is: I don’t go to church any more.
And I’m going to tell you: Sunday mornings are JOYFUL.
I am making brunch. Or getting coffee. Or going on a walk. Sleeping late. Planning the week. Doing laundry. Reading a book. Texting friends. Writing poems. Playing with the dogs. Watching a movie. Composing letters. Fixing the sink.
Sunday mornings are about enjoying life for me.
There are people who find that JOY in church, but, you see, church started out for me as a chore. That’s what we had to do Sunday mornings when I was growing up. It was a job – we all had our tasks at church. Not the least of which was to sit still. When I was in college, less church and more hangovers, but I digress. Then, as a young mother, I made my family attend church in much the same fashion I had as a young girl. Perhaps even more so because – ta da! – we became missionaries for a while. Talk about a job! Later in life, I attended church because it was required; part of the social contract of living in the South is church. In fact, I will tell you that when I lived in Georgia, and I would introduce myself to someone, I was usually asked my husband’s name and then what church we went to.
Do you notice what’s missing here?
There was no joy in church for me. Church was a task to be performed, a show to play a role in, a Bible verse to memorize, an outfit to wear, a song to sing, comparisons to endure, a series of conversations to tolerate.
Now, you may think that I simply chose churches poorly. As I intimated at the beginning of this: I have been Baptist, Lutheran, Non-denominational, Presbyterian, Methodist, Open-Bible (the speaking in tongues kind), and Episcopalian. In all of these iterations, I found one common denominator: Burden.
I held on to church for so long because it was the “thing to do.” Because the neighbors did it. Because I had been brought up in the church.
Not because I wanted to.
The past few years I have let church go, and I have found more JOY on a singular Sunday morning than I had over decades of pew-sitting.
I do not know how you choose to spend your Sunday mornings. Perhaps you attend church. Vacuum your carpets. Visit the elderly. Bake pies. Watch crime shows. Wash your cats. Detail your car. Brew beer.
What I want to say is: whatever you do with your Sunday mornings: do it with JOY.
Or whenever – it doesn’t have to be about Sunday mornings. It is about JOY.
As we look toward the upcoming holidays and our schedules and our obligations, maybe you have something that is a task you’ve wanted to get rid of for a while. Perhaps you want to resign from the committee or put the brakes on a project. Do it. No explanations needs. No self-excoriation.