DISCLAIMER/WARNING: You have probably heard everything in this post somewhere else before, maybe several times.
Church is hard for me. Not the worship experience itself, but being around the other worshipers.
If your parents were like mine, when you were a little kid they probably made you dress up in your best clothes for church. When I was 4 or 5 I had a solid white suit that I wore with a solid white shirt, solid white tie, and solid white shoes. I don’t know why, but I loved wearing it. Too bad I kept growing.
Even though many people wear casual clothes to church these days, it seems they still try to look their best and act their best when they show up for church.
Here’s where the hard part comes in for me. It begins when I drive into the parking lot and see streams of people headed toward the door.
Wow! They look really good! Nice clothes, nice shoes, nice hair, nice makeup (on the ladies).
Then I look across the parking lot at all the cars.
Nice new SUV’s, nice clean minivans. Hey, that’s a nice BMW!
And then I look at myself.
OK, I guess I look alright on the outside. Not too bad I suppose. But look at my old Toyota. It’s got dents, a few scratches, and it could definitely use a bath.
I go inside the church to the huge auditorium. All around me are smiles and laughter as people reunite with friends after a week’s absence. Everybody looks so happy.
I don’t feel so happy myself. How am I going to make my mortgage payment next week? My wife and I had a huge fight this morning. The kids are sick. I stepped in cat puke on my way out the door. I’ve got to go back to work tomorrow for another long week. All I really want to do right now is go home and go back to bed.
Do you see the difference in the two approaches? I’m not in any way being fair to myself. I can only see the outside of the guy sitting next to me, but I know everything going wrong in my own life. I’m comparing his outer best with my inner worst. There’s no way I’m going to feel like I measure up to others taking that approach. It’s no wonder that most Sundays I feel depressed within a few minutes after getting to church.
I can’t continue these kinds of thought patterns if I hope to approach church in the right frame of mind. If I truly want to be there to worship God, then I must change the way I think.
Realistically, the way these people look may be the best they look all week. Today, they’ve got nice clothes on and are all shiny, smiley, and happy. Tomorrow morning at 9:00, they may be wearing a drab uniform or a business suit and tie they hate, have a scowl on their face and be dreading dealing with their awful boss all day.
I have no idea what is going on in the lives of all the other people seated around me at church. Logically, I know that every single person in the room has some sort of struggle that they’re dealing with. Nobody has a perfect life. The following quote is sometimes attributed to Plato, but nobody seems to know for sure who first said it: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
I applaud whoever came up with it, because it certainly makes sense. We never really know what pain somebody may be hiding just to keep up appearances on the outside. When it’s all said and done, we’ll all in the same boat.