We all like Friday -- Friday has tons of friends. Friday sits at the popular table in the lunchroom. Friday throws great parties.
Sunday is a different story. Some of us enjoy having her around, others of us get prickly when we think of her. Maybe you’re part of the prickly crowd. Maybe to you, Sunday represents obligation and expectation, maybe it reminds you of betrayal from people who should have never betrayed you, maybe it exposes your loneliness, maybe it highlights your failures.
My Sunday story is this: Sunday is a day I once loved -- my favorite day. A set-apart day of togetherness and insight. But as an adult, it became a day of performance, a day that overwhelmed me. Then it morphed into something I dreaded and feared, something that made me feel as if loneliness was a knife against my throat. Despite all the damage, the Lord has slowly restored my joy in this place on the calendar. To my surprise and delight, the day is becoming precious to me again, a day when I remember the gospel best, when God reminds me of the family he’s saved me to.
Because of my Sunday story, I’m always tender towards people who struggle with it. It’s part of my routine to pray on the way to church for friends who I know wrestle with this day and for people who I’ve never met who awake with a sense of dread.
Sunday strugglers, let me tell you the tools God has used and continue to use to restore my joy:
1. Prayer. I remembered that I can ask him for things: connection with people, purpose at church, restoration of the joy of my salvation, compassion and affection for those I’ll encounter on Sunday.
2. Regular church attendance. He’s designed us to be with our faith family. Don’t fall into thinking that listening to the service online will suffice -- your soul needs more than instruction. It needs nearness to people. It needs the physical experience of gospel pictures like baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It needs voices behind and before you singing truth in tandem. It needs the car seat struggle with the kids and the worry over being late and the purse-pen search and the tension of who-should-I-say-hello-to -- and all the other Sunday clunkiness that exposes our humanity. Why? Because you’ll settle in alongside the other clunky people, and you’ll discover togetherness despite yourselves. Because you’ll take the bread and the wine with them, and together you’ll remember from normal elements an abnormal truth: death brought life. Because you’ll hear the sharp soprano and the warbling bass and all the other noises in between and you’ll remember that despite itself, the sound is glorious. Your soul needs this. Don’t neglect it.
3. My eyes and my hands. God uses my own parts to draw me to him -- he uses my eyes to help me see people as he sees them, and when I can see better, I get a glimpse of the affection he feels for them. He uses my own hands to give me purpose, to not only see the people but to serve them in the ways that he’s equipped me. That can look a million different ways, but all the ways have a singular result: delight. Our hands give us opportunity to be a contributing member of the family, and when we have skin in the game, we’ll hang in there better when things get bad. (And they will. But God will stay good -- and he is leading the family.)
All the Sundays are in God’s hands, and none of them are a mystery to him. Maybe this Sunday you can try again. You can know that I’ll be praying for you as I drive to church, just after I’ve wrangled the kids into the car and wondered if my outfit is weird. I’ll shake off those things and pray for my family, that we’ll be brave enough to be together.