Monday, June 13, 2011

Do I Have to Worship in Church?

When I was planning Eddie's funeral I never even considered having the service anywhere other than in a church.  The funeral home I had chosen had a very nice chapel which was fine for visitation, but I just felt that the funeral itself should be held in church.  For quite awhile afterward though I was afraid I had made a mistake.  I found that it was extremely difficult for me to attend church services on Sunday mornings in the weeks following Eddie's death.  Every time I set foot in the sanctuary I was immediately taken back to the day of his funeral.  I couldn't participate in the singing because of the constant lump in my throat.  I couldn't focus on the sermon because I kept hearing what the preacher said during the funeral.  I couldn't stand to look at or smell the flower arrangements.  Every Sunday that I went to church I relived the day of the funeral, so eventually I just quit going.

I talked to my counselor about this, and she told me that it wasn't unusual to feel that way.  She said that following the death of her husband she spent many Sunday mornings holding her own "service" in her son's backyard.  She assured me it would get easier and encouraged me to find another way to worship in the meantime.  She said that while it is good to worship with other people, to participate in singing, and to hear a preacher's sermon, that what God cares about the most is what's in our heart.  I had been trying to read a devotion and pray every morning when I first got up anyway, so I decided to begin doing this outside.  Sometimes I sat on the deck and other times on the front porch.  There were even a few times that I drove to Pine Mountain and sat across the road from the Country Store where I could look out over the valley.  During these times my mind seemed to be clearer, and I was able to concentrate on reading and praying.  There was something about being outside surrounded by the things in nature that made me feel closer to God than I had in church.

In time I was able to return to church without being bombarded by bad memories.  Although I am no longer attending the church where Eddie's funeral was held, I have been visiting others and hope to find one where I feel "at home" one day.  I still get choked up when we sing certain hymns ... "Amazing Grace", "How Great Thou Art" ... and my heart skips a beat when I realize someone is about to sing "I Can Only Imagine", but the sadness goes away more quickly now.  I do not regret my decision to have Eddie's funeral service in the church.  I know I was right to begin with - that's where it was supposed to be.

This is my Father's world,
and to my listening ears
all nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres. 
This is my Father's world: 
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
his hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father's world,
the birds their carols raise,
the morning light, the lily white,
declare their maker's praise. 
This is my Father's world: 
he shines in all that's fair;
in the rustling grass I hear him pass;
he speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father's world. 
O let me ne'er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet. 
This is my Father's world: 
why should my heart be sad? 
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! 
God reigns; let the earth be glad!


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