For half of my life, I was what you would call a “holiday Christian.”
I was always searching for something, but I was searching in all the wrong places — until I finally stopped worrying what others would think.
When you don’t fit the stereotypical mold of what a “Christian family” looks like, it can be very intimidating trying to “show up” and be an active member of the church.
Having been a single, teen mother, it was not easy to show up to church. The head turns, eyebrow raises, even the questions, can all be overwhelming if we are already trying to face fears. But, the fact is, the new “norm” doesn’t always include a married mother and father. Whether it be divorce/remarried, cohabitation, death or same sex marriages, over half of the population is being raised “nontraditionally.”
Many “nontraditional” families are curious to know God, but they don’t feel comfortable subjecting themselves to judgement. Many of them believe they simply are not good enough for church.
I will never forget the day I walked into our church to get my son baptized. It was the first time we showed up as a young family. I remember some of my dearest church friends I grew up with glaring with their families, speaking under their breath. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough! Sure, I should have been married, I should have waited, but here we were: we still showed up. But, no one said anything—ever.
My whole support system I was raised to confide in, dumped me.
That was the day I stopped showing up to church; the day I stopped believing, too.
Yes, having children before marriage is a sin, but if we as parents are scared to be judged, the children never feel Jesus’ love and the community church brings, which is our utmost role as parents. If we face our fears and show up to church, are we welcomed with open arms? Do our kids feel “normal” in class? Are we going to return the next Sunday?
In this day and age, things are different.
Through the years, I still wanted my son to know and feel God, so I heavily relied on a dear family member. She would come pick him up every Sunday, get him to class and bring him home. I hated feeling disconnected and that I wasn’t able to be there with him, or for him, but it just wasn’t worth feeling unwelcome.
As time went on, more influential and non-judgemental people started imprinting on not only my son (I thank God for them always!) but also on me, even with only “showing up” on Christmas Eve and Easter. They took Philippians 2:5 to the next level. They were the hands and feet that brought us back.
These select few made us feel at home. They went out of their way to come say hello and touch base, encouraged us to keep coming and connected us with others so we could be in relationship with those who were in similar seasons, or who had gone through it before.
As a church, it is our job to fully equip all parents to spiritually lead their children.
Spoiler alert: Christians aren’t perfect! They don’t have all of the answers, only God does. I must say, though, here at Shepherd’s Gate, we are eagerly learning how to open our hearts and our minds more than we could have ever imagined, simply because we desire to open our arms wider than they were before.
I am so grateful to say that when I put my own doubts and fears aside, when we “showed up” again, back here at SG, we instantly felt at home again, and we are about as “nontraditional” as you can get! It just takes some internal reflecting.
So if you have been searching, or have been curious yet still have doubts, I encourage you to just keep showing up! If you aren’t local, check out our sermons online and/or our Bible studies via Zoom.
Friends, invite your neighbors — you know, the ones who don’t look like Christians, they too are God’s children yearning to be loved. I’m praying, and I know you will find your place to call home because Jesus will always leave the herd for the one left behind.