One of the reasons I knew that my husband and I were meant to be together was the fact that he has challenged me to be the best version of myself, personally and professionally. To clarify, it’s not like he stood in front of me and said “you should do a better job.” No, he challenged (and still does) me by the way he lived his own life. Being around him made me want to be a better person, friend, and Catholic.
Early on in our relationship (aka the first five years, before we were married), I leaned on him heavily as a leader and role model in my own faith development. I grew up Catholic and my family had always been very consistent with going to Mass, but there is something different about your relationship with God as a child/teenager and as independent adult. Reece and I started dating right after high school graduation, and it just so happened that we were going to the same college (I swear, we came to the decisions ourselves before we were a couple). So naturally, he was a constant during the transition from being a high school grad to a full-blown college student (and eventual college grad).
We were fortunate enough to attend Gonzaga University, which had both a church (St. Aloysius) and a student chapel on campus. To be quite honest, there were many, many times that I did not feel like going to Mass…for various reasons. While Reece is incredibly social, I am incredibly NOT social, and the idea of talking to huge groups of people during the cookie socials after Mass (yes, there were cookies provided after church. I miss that a lot…) terrified me. There were times when I just felt too overwhelmed with homework that I just couldn’t get away. For a brief time during my undergrad years, I was flat out angry with God for allowing someone I admired and looked up to pass away from cancer and just couldn’t make myself go. On the other hand, no matter what was going on in his life, Reece made it a point to go. There were times that I would go with him, and other times I would stay back if it was too much to handle. He was very good with letting me make the decision and not forcing it.
After we graduated with our Bachelor’s degrees, Reece went on to start his career and I went back to Gonzaga for one more year to get my Master’s. Side note…that was the only “long-distance” we have ever done but I am so glad that we did it. I think we needed to do a little more growing up as individuals before we got married. Anyway, I went through a phase while I was at school by myself where I did not go to Mass very much. It wasn’t like I was angry, or upset. Maybe I was a little lonely, but I don’t think that was a driving factor. No, my excuse was more “God knows my heart. He knows where I am, He knows that I love Him. I just don’t feel called to go to Mass right now.”
You might be wondering why I am sharing this all with you. Whether you are Christian, Catholic, or practice another religion, we are all faced with the same decision on a weekly basis: Should I stay at home or should I go to church?
It is really easy to come up with excuses not to go. I just shared a few of the reasons that I have used in the past, and I guarantee that if we polled our readers we would probably come up with several more. It really helps to have a friend to nudge you along every once in a while and remind you why it is important to go. I truly believe that is why I struggled with going so much during my grad school year…I didn’t have my best friend, the one I loved and wanted to emulate, there to encourage me to go.
So, whoever you are, wherever you are, I’d like to ask for a few minutes of your time. Let me be that friend for a moment.
As you read at the beginning of the post, I have totally been there. I have come up with every excuse under the sun not to go to church. Some of them are valid, some not so much.
It takes two. Like any other relationship, your relationship with God involves two parties: yourself and God. At the end of the day, that is what it comes down to. The wonderful thing is that God loves you for who you are. He sort of invented the whole unconditional love thing. But if you really want to have a relationship with the Father, it is important that you make efforts as well to get to know Him and unfold the mystery (see my last faith-based blog post HERE). Of course, this doesn’t always come in the form of going to church, many people have found that their relationship with God is expanded through prayer and reading scripture.
Similarly, with any other relationship, showing up is the first (and sometimes the biggest) step. Have you guys ever seen this ecard?
I love it, it makes me laugh whenever I read it because this is my gym/working out life. But really, the same philosophy can be applied to going to church. You might feel like I did in grad school (remember, “God knows my heart, I don’t need to go”). Yes, he does know you…more than you may ever know. He knows what makes you tick, he knows the number of hairs on your head. He knows you and he loves you. He has made a place for you at His table and would love for you to sit down and stay a while. It doesn’t matter to Him if you sit in the very front row or in the very last row in the Sanctuary. By being there, you are making an effort and showing you care. And I guarantee He sees it and is grateful for it.
If you do decide that you are not going to church on any given Sunday, own that decision and don’t worry about what others think. Again, at the end of the day it comes down to you and God. No one else matters. Those of us familiar with the concept of Catholic guilt have the tendency to cringe and make excuses for why we were not at Mass. You should not feel like you have to explain it to other people…I firmly believe that as long as you have explained it to God and are comfortable with your decision, it is what it is. He is not going to hold it against you if you decide not to go. Remember that unconditional love thing? Yes, it applies even in those situations. But at the same time, it is important to note that it is so easy to slip into a pattern of excuses for not going and eventually you might find yourself feeling exactly like that ecard above. Whether it has been one week, or five years, I challenge you to stop for a second and contemplate how your relationship with God might evolve if you decided to take a seat at His table this Sunday. You might be surprised what you find.
As usual, feel free to leave a comment below or shoot us a note. We’d love to hear your thoughts. :)