I have had the honor of growing up in church my entire life. Some of my earliest memories are of church related activities: tagging along with my parents to chaperone youth events and work camps, attending prayer meetings, music practices, and more services than I could ever count. I count it a joy and a privilege to have the life that I do, but after so many years of being around something, it is inevitable that at one point or another any of us will take that thing for granted.
I remember 2020 being a huge wake up call for me. Something that was so engrained into my weekly routine was ripped away overnight. With one fell swoop of government mandates, church as I'd always known it was no more.
It was a startling experience that reminded every Christian of what our brothers and sisters in some foreign countries deal with all the time and that we could always lose our privilege of freely attending church at any moment. I have tried ever since then to remain mindful of the lesson 2020 taught us and remember to be thankful every week for the privilege it is to be in a physical church building with fellow believers.
Lately, though, I've experienced a new type of reminder.
A friend of mine has been talking about coming to church with me for a few months, and she finally did so about a month ago now. When someone visits your church for the first time, you always wonder what they will think, but my friend was open and eager from the very start. She immediately asked for a Bible and agreed to do a plan of salvation Bible study that same week.
As we began to work with her during that Bible Study, it was amazing to see that she truly knew none of this before now. All of it was completely brand new. Her excitement and eagerness to learn was so refreshing, and it filled my heart with joy to see things start to click together in her mind. She even got an epiphany all on her own later and exclaimed, "God and Jesus are the same person!" Since then, she's continued to be a little sponge, soaking in every bit of this Christian lifestyle, asking questions about Scripture and our church, gleefully anticipating the next service, and even already witnessing to her friends about how she received the Holy Ghost.
Having someone I know well discover God for the first time has both blessed and humbled my heart. All of these things that are second-nature to me, an automatic, reflexive part of my life-long existence, are brand new to her, as though they never existed until now. When was the last time I approached God with such wide-eyed wonder? Do I anticipate being in the house of God with such zeal? Am I as eager to scour the depths of God's Word and notice things I never did before? How many times do all of us long-time Christians take for granted the amazing grace and freedom we have through Christ Jesus?
The Easter holiday is now upon us, and even this most holy weekend of all on the yearly calendar can become commonplace. We buy cute new outfits, make a delicious meal for our family, and hide some eggs for the kids, and while none of these things are bad in and of themselves, it's easy to let them distract us from this holiday's true purpose. We can easily go through the motions on Easter Sunday and think, "Yes, yes. I know the story: Jesus died, He was buried, He rose. The end."
But when was the last time we stopped and thought about that hard and serious?
The God of all creation, Who formed galaxies with a single breath, Who created our innermost being, left His throne to come and live among us and then DIED to give us eternal life.
I mean... what??? How amazing and beautiful and mind-boggling is that?! It's not just a story in a book. It really happened. It was gruesome. Ugly. Horrific. Traumatic. And He endured it all for me, for you, for everyone.
This Easter, my desire is to see Jesus and His sacrifice as though I were hearing the story for the first time. I want to look at the Gospel through new eyes and let it sink into the depths of my soul. And I want to do my best to life every day with that sense of awe and wonder for the God I serve!
God open my eyes
And awaken my heart
To trust and believe
Like I did at the start
When I saw Your hand in every lightning flash
And heard Your footsteps in the rolling thunder
'Cause the sky's still as endless
Your love's still as great
You count every star and You know me by name
With every beat of my heart
I hear You calling
Welcome back to wonder
~ Welcome Back to Wonder, by Steven Curtis Chapman