There’s a reason that the term gob smacked and the term God smacked are one letter apart. Both have the same effect. The term gob smacked is defined as utterly astonished, astounded. That’s precisely how I feel when God speaks and I’m actually paying attention enough to receive the message.
This morning, I awoke with a scripture in my head. “Do not be wise in your own eyes...” I didn’t necessarily have the second part correct because my foggy morning brain filled in “and lean not on your own understanding.” Perhaps God meant me to know both of those things, but I knew I was merging two different passages. I got out of bed and went down the hallway to my office and grabbed my Bible.
Proverbs 3:7 “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”
Hmmm…that’s an odd way to start the morning. Except its really not. For weeks, I have been struggling mentally and emotionally with many things, but last night the topic of returning to church had come up with a dear friend. She, too, was struggling with many things which were only compounded by the pandemic. During our talk, it occurred to us that the one thing we needed, the “fix”, was to get back to attending in person church services.
I had been having the safety debate about this in my head for quite some time. “There are too many people in one space,” I reasoned. “There are too many people without masks,” I argued. At one time this was true, but church attendance has fallen off considerably as people have taken to the safety and comfort of their living rooms for church. Physical, in-person attendance is down. Way down.
While I have appreciated the technology available to keep God’s word in my home when things were at the height of sketchy, I realize there are some drawbacks to what I lovingly referred to as my “armchair Christianity.” For many months, I was eagerly onboard, bounding out of bed and situating myself in front of my laptop to watch the live stream from our pastor. Over time, my enthusiasm waned, and I found myself tuning in a bit late as I sat in my robe, breakfast in hand, watching church like it was Saturday morning cartoons. I was getting sloppy. I didn’t stand as the pastor requested. I didn’t sing along with the hymns of praise. I was no longer a participating worshiper; I was a spectator.
At times, I wouldn’t make it to the screen at all, promising myself that I would watch it later. Sometimes later would come. Sometimes later turned into days, which then turned into weeks. The drift was no longer a drift. I had been swept away on the current of apathy.
While I still did daily devotional study and read my Bible, my worship had become nonexistent. The whisper in my head kept telling me I was doing fine, staying in the word while staying “safe” at home. For me, however, this was proposterous. I was in closer proximity to people during my workday for an hour at a time than I would be in an hour live worship service at church. Still, my mind continued to justify this behavior. I would find agreement with others as we would discuss whether we felt it was “safe” enough to return to church.
And here is where I’m either gob smacked or God smacked…or gob smacked by God. Rolling out of bed this morning, I was being warned that I was being wise in my own eyes and leaning on my own understanding. Then later, the barrage of correction came in the form of reminders from the word as God pointed out just what I had been doing. I want to say, at this point, that I take no pride in revealing this list. However, just last week our pastor spoke of being vulnerable in order to be used by God (yes, I caught that on the live stream). And so, despite the fact that I was being shown the error of my ways and that it’s humbling and embarrassing to admit, I promised God that my writing would be used to glorify Him. That means not holding back the truth and the things that glorify Him, no matter the cost to me.
This morning, He lovingly pointed out that my lack of attendance and conversations about the safety of attending church began with being wise in my own eyes (Proverbs 3:7), were the result of leaning on my own understanding (Proverbs 3: 5, 6), and perpetuated living in and sowing fear (the Bible has 365 references to “fearing not”, all of which I cannot list here). While discussing this with others, I was causing division (1 Corinthians 1: 10-13) and forsaking the assembling of myself with others (Hebrews 10:25).
After pondering this over my morning coffee, it occured to me that I had lost my focus. My gaze was no longer fixed on Him but on my circumstances and the people around me. Eventually, my focus was only on the screen in front of me as I gave up active worship altogether and became a spectator of my faith. Unfortunately, I had myself snowed the entire time thinking I was still a “good Christian” because I was maintaining my church attendance via the internet and reading my Bible in the mornings. Although doing both of those things is good and necessary, it wasn’t enough. I was taking in and not giving to the Lord. I was doing my duty, not paricipating in a relationship.
Online services were good in a pinch for me. But God clearly was sending me a message. It was time to return to Him. Hebrews 11:6 says that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. After receiving this message, I worshipped to The Blessing by Kari Jobe. Listening to the words, I envisioned God never leaving or forsaking Abraham, Noah, Moses, Joseph, and David. It dawned on me that He was with me too, and He was inviting me back into His arms. I have been gob smacked with His love and personally invited back into the fold.
I pray that you, like me, feel the tug of our Lord inviting you back to church as you are able. I plan to continue to wear a mask for my safety, as well as the safety of my family and my clients at work. If you are unable to return to church, physically, I invite you to pray and ask God to open your eyes to how you can participate more deeply in worshipping Him.
Malachi 3: 7 ‘”Yet from the days of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of hosts. “But you said, In what way shall we return?”‘ (emphasis mine)
Be well and be blessed.