One of the harder, more unexpected parts of our move to Virginia has been missing Grace Midtown, our church in Atlanta. When we lived in Georgia, we knew how much we loved it - the music, the community, the warm vibes that washed over us the minute we walked in the door.
However, it wasn't until we no longer had access to it that we realized just how much we appreciated it. Not because churches here aren't great - they are! But because, when you have a place where you experience God in a real way - one that changes your relationship and develops you as a person - it's hard to let it go.
I started attending Grace just weeks before Chris and I began dating. Soon after we did, he made the jump to join me, which means many of our formative relationship moments were experienced between those walls. Those simple days of dating and the first year of our marriage were precious and, although we love the season we're in now, it's easy to feel nostalgic as Sundays come and go.
But what I'm remembering lately is that a church is not God. It's so essential to our faith to be able to access Him outside of one specific place.
And I'm not preaching here, I'm confessing.
I need this reminder. I need to remember that I often feel the Lord most deeply in nature - not inside four walls. I feel him at the beach, as the wind hits my face and the ocean crashes. I feel him when my feet hit spring grass for the first time, reminded that He renews all things.
Just as we cannot blame God for our frustrations with the church, we cannot ask it to be Him, either. We cannot expect the church to fulfill our every need. The church is a conduit for accessing him, yes. It is a powerful body, yes. But the church isn't God.
As we find ourselves missing Grace, we must also remember that these days are precious, too. God is moving in our lives and our marriage here, just as much as He was in Atlanta. It doesn't necessarily have Housefires (Grace's worship band!) as the soundtrack to this season. But it has real, beautiful moments in new places, with new faces. And, as we remind one another weekly, how lucky we were to have experienced a church we loved so much in Atlanta.
My mom always says if you're lucky enough to have once-in-a-lifetime-experiences, it's important to remember that they may only happen once in a lifetime. But how fortunate we are to experience something so great even just once.