In which I hope she remembers, today at church

I can’t carry a tune, but I love to sing. Maybe that’s part of why I love to go to church on Sundays: I get to sing.

But I also  get to watch my tinies dance, I get to hush and chase our baby across the back of the gym behind the folding chairs, I get to hold my son in my arms and sing the words into his coarse blonde hair. I get to hold new babies and give their worn-out, sleep-deprived mamas a rest. I get to stretch out my arms wide in the worship I always feel when I’m walking in the woods, and I get to show my face to the rafters, throat exposed, unafraid. I get to cry and cry and cry, and sing poetry and promises.

Sunday comes and I am longing for church. (Even the typing of that sentence, let alone the living truth of it, is enough to make me laugh at how God has surprised me, my bluff so completely been called.) But it’s true. I remember my Dad used to say, “I’m in the world all week-long, and boy, I can’t wait to get back with my family.” I feel that way: I feel like I can’t wait to hang out with people who love Jesus, people who long to see God’s kingdom come, and His will, done, right now.

So much of our lives in this world feels like exile, and we’re making a home in a faraway land, and so every time I get to be with my people (because the people who love God, these are my people), it’s a lush oasis in the desert, a refill, a taste of living water, a glimpse of Jesus with skin on.

I don’t think we need an institution and a Sunday to find community, no way; but in this season, that’s how it is for me, and I’m okay with that. I’m welcoming the strangeness of it, and rejoicing at the gift of home groups, Sunday afternoon potlucks with chili and soup and the Spirit. Today, I signed up to teach Sunday school because my daughter asked me to do it, and I figured I better say “yes” because all too soon, she wont’ want me teaching her class, and so today,  I’m going to show up. I start in a couple of weeks. I remember how my mother handed out crayons in my own Sunday school class, and something feels right about this decision.

I need the Church, in all its iterations and changeability and failings, I need community in all its difficulty and brokenness and beauty.

I need it because being friends on Facebook isn’t enough when you’re really supposed to be family, and a text message isn’t the same as wrapping your arms around each other, and boldly going to the throne of Grace together, breath to breath.

A song on my iPod isn’t the same as singing at the top of my off-key voice in a crowd as my friend sings the songs of my faith, it’s not the same as stomping my own feet, and a podcast isn’t the same as community preaching, eye to eye with your friends. And commenting on blogs isn’t the same as face-to-face conversation, it’s hard to call someone a heretic to their face.

And talking about or reading about or studying community, and grace, and the radical act of staying put for once in our addicted-to-change, afraid-of-commitment culture, and embracing mess and noise and family and prayer and friendship, well, it isn’t the same as living it in our real walking-around lives, is it?

And so this morning, I get to sing.

And I get to taste the salt of my own tears, and hear, with my own ears, my voice proclaiming the goodness of my God. And I get to pull out my old hankie and press half-moons of mascara into the worn cotton, because it’s so true, He’s been so good to me, and I can hardly breathe for His faithfulness, so I exhale, at long last, exhale.

I get to be reminded of my freedom, and his love and mercy, and then, right while I’m singing, today, bless the Lord oh my soul, my six-year-old, my Anne-girl, she reaches out and holds my hand.

She’s always watching me, and she’s watched me worship for her entire life, and today I could see her, marking this moment, and I thought: if there is one memory she has of me, please, God, let it be this one.

Let her remember this Sunday in a school gym, with a bunch of other misfits, we’re all longing for Jesus, we’re all longing to be seen. Let her remember how we had breakfast and I yelled at everyone for the mess in the house, and I put a stew in the crockpot, and we arrived late at church.

And let her remember how I cried my mascara right off, and how I was such a gigantic mess in my real life but I kept trying anyway because I had stars in my eyes, wild in love, and how I sang too-loud, and clutched my breast with relief at being reminded again how He is faithful. And let her remember that He is enough, because He was enough for her crazy imperfect mama.

And at that moment, then my Anne, she squeezed my hand, and smiled at me, tenderly, like she knew me, like she gained part of her woman-soul before my eyes, and she started to sing right out loud, our voices rising together, her eyes never leaving my tear-stained joyful face.


  • Hännah

    Though I don’t have a daughter watching me to make me self-aware, I am finding myself surprised by where I am (teaching Sunday school! really actually involved at church! wanting to be part of … a Bible study?!) and a little humbled and thankful for it. Healing overtakes my cynicism sometimes and I have to stop and be small and enjoy it.

    • Sarah Bessey

      “stop and be small” – very cool way to put it, Hannah.

  • Shari Green

    What a lovely post–thank you! We do need community, and we need Jesus, and we need to sing and praise and be open and vulnerable and trusting in the midst of our messiness, and we need our children to see it. Very happy for you that you and your daughter were able to share that moment today.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Thanks, Shari!

  • Sara Shock

    10, 000 Reasons ♥ Showing to the generation to come the praises of His name!

  • Sharon O

    YES yes YES… so beautifully written and shared. so many times have I sat in our church even today with tears running down my cheeks, makeup smeared, and heart ripping… so holy and so hurting for what breaks God’s heart. YES… if we only go to sing our song from our heart… he is right there with us.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Beautiful, Sharon.

  • Vicki

    Oh you beautiful soul. That was my prayer for my little ones too – and now they are your age and guess what? They are worshiping with their little ones – still loving Jesus in their own messy communities. I’m so thankful.

    And now I’m living in a new city. After a lifetime of worshiping in the same church we are looking for a new “home” – and nothing seems right. Why we left and why we moved is another story, but at first it was such a relief to go or not go – to arrive at the last minute and leave at the final song. It’s been a blessed season of rest from constant activity and seeking affirmation from man. But now I’m longing to belong again in a wiser, healthier way.

    Thanks for this beautiful reminder of what community looks like.

    • Sarah Bessey

      It is a nice rest because so much of the institution is about programs, isn’t it? I like to take a step out of that hamster wheel myself.

  • Sara Shock

    Ok…so I already commented, but now I’ve been thinking for an hour and I am going to share more :) After being a dedicated three time a week churchgoer, pianist, SS Teacher, etc. I got married and moved this summer….together my sweetie and I have found a new church, but it only has one service on Sunday morning. Honestly, it has almost been a sense of relief, that the obligation of involvement hasn’t been there, and truthfully we have missed about one week a month as we have been traveling quite a bit. Today was such a day….but then, driving home, my sweetie was sleeping, and I happened upon a radio station where worship was being played. As I listened and sang, I had such an overwhelming sense of how much I MISSED church today…and I was amazed how much I welcomed that feeling. We have not found the perfect church, in fact we still have some questions, but what remains is that it is beautiful to worship, and important to be challenged, with the body of Christ. So, although I have my questions, I am embracing the community in a new way…..

    • Sarah Bessey

      That is a good feeling. I have wrestled with “church” for years now, nearly a decade, and to be honest, that’s part of why this season of imperfect community is extra sweet. I remember the first Sunday I wanted to go, and I was all “whaaaaat?”

  • pastordt

    You have GOT to stop doing this! I can barely see to type the dang comment. Oh glory be, this is the best description of why we need to ‘not neglect our meeting together’ I’ve seen in a long while. I love this cyber world. And I wish I could hug you and about a hundred other people IRL. And I love the connections made, the prayer circles formed, the ideas exchanged. BUT – there is something rich about circling someone physically. About whispering a spontaneous prayer in their ear because you just know NOW is the time to offer it, about laughing over a barely-warm casserole and too much green salad, about standing tall, closing your eyes and singing out loud, in tune or not, of God’s love and our need for it. I pray that is what my children (who are now all OLDER THAN YOU ARE) remember about me, too. I pray to God it is not the fights in the car on the way there, the over-busyness of my schedule because I so loved being at and working with church. I hope they remember that Sunday was family day and that we all belonged together and to God. Thank you for this loveliness. Thank you.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Amen, Diana. Amen.

  • Linda Stoll

    Oh yes. No wonder the enemy of our souls wants to separate us from the Body that feeds and nourishes, grows and stretches us …

  • Renee @ FIMBY

    I am trying to rejoice only with you and not be envious but mostly I’m happy for you and knowing that though there is no christian community, no church, like this in my life right now, that doesn’t mean it will be this way forever. And it is so funny how God surprises us. Because living in way-secular rural Quebec was never in my long term (I used to think I could only live places where certain types of churches existed) plans and here we are. And I have to content myself with virtual Christian community. And see that as God’s blessing and provision in my life.

    Living in a very dry spiritual place I see how much Christians in many places of North America take their christian community for granted. The fact that this church even exists in your community is such a privilege. One I’m trying not to envy (smile).

    But then I know there are plans for us here, but man, being patient is not always so much fun.

    • Sarah Bessey

      No, it’s not fun. I have been in that same season – by choice or by circumstances – and it’s a hard one. And in those times, the Internet did fill a big part of me, along with books.

    • Jen Sparks

      You and me both, dearest. On all points. Praying for you xx

  • Katie Noah Gibson

    Beautiful, Sarah. I believe she will remember. Thanks for sharing – these moments are holy ground.

  • Tara_pohlkottepress

    oh sarah. this is true beauty. glory be…. amen.

  • Jenn

    Your words just create such a longing in my heart for real face to face community.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Long time coming here,and imperfect even now, and yet it’s good. I hope it comes to you, Jenn.

  • mindy

    Beautiful. Thank you. Your writing is always a highlight of my day.

  • Beth

    Oh, Sarah, I cry almost every sunday at our church, I never fail to be moved in some way, and I long for this connection during the week. I’m so glad my kids are witness to this, for how blessed we are and how the sabbath can restore us. I love reading your words. Always.

    • Sarah Bessey

      Glad I’m not alone in my craziness, Beth. :-)

  • Jennie Melton Strope

    Sitting here sobbing, because I have a girl who grew up and forgot all of this. And praying, praying for Anne that she might never forget.

    • Sarah Bessey

      I forgot for a while myself, Jennie, and yet I remembered. L will remember. Love you.

  • Gretchen

    Looooove this. In fact, you had me at hello. & “So much of our lives in this world feels like exile, and we’re making a home in a faraway land, and so every time I get to be with my people (because the people who love God, these are my people), it’s a lush oasis in the desert, a refill, a taste of living water, a glimpse of Jesus with skin on.” Thank you, Sarah.

  • theblahblahblahger

    Oh, what a powerful and beautiful post…she’ll remember, mama! You’re teaching her everyday!!!

  • Raylee Butler

    This touched my heart so deeply. The church is messy and so full of messy people. We hurt each other at times and disappoint each other, but in the end we need each other. I love how you expressed your heart in this post. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  • Tez

    Thanks for making me sob, Sarah. Remind me one day to tell you why this just opened the floodgates. I would love to right now, but I’m sitting in a cafe with tears rolling down my cheeks and shoulders shaking. Love you.

  • Joy Lenton

    What a yearning this produced within my soul! Oh how I long to feel like you do about church and life with God. It feels like an uphill struggle at the moment. My own children are grown and I pray they have received something of a legacy of love and faith such as you are already bequeathing to your little ones. Nurture and hold them close. These days pass so swiftly. Blessings to you and your family :)

  • Morag Renfro

    So glad it’s not just me that cries through worship!

  • Heather Werner

    It is so relieving and refreshing to know that there are places out there for people like us – people who had all but given up on church. We went on a church hunt last year – expecting to find something that we could just deal with – drag ourselves to each Sunday because we thought we should. But God so surprised us and blessed us with a place that we call home – a place we long for – a place where we cry, where we smile, and where we hug regularly. Thank you Jesus for churches that are home. And I long for, plead for places like this for my friends who are in that same struggle of feeling like they have to settle or not go at all. May they find this place of worship, rest, fellowship – maybe even right in the very church where they are right now.

  • Laura Werezak

    This is so beautiful, Sarah. Thank you for writing it down, for marking it, for sharing it with us. I remember my mama’s tears in church. Funny thing is, I was always embarrassed of her tears, nobody else was crying and I didn’t know what to do. But now I’m the one crying, my daughter is the one watching. I’ve lived enough life and I’ve read enough church history in the mean time to know that tears can be a very powerful spiritual gift. May your daughter be continually blessed by your faithful love for our Saviour.

  • Tara

    So stunningly beautiful, I have read over and over and loved every second of this post.

  • Heather Caliri

    Providing a legacy for your girl…what a blessing.

  • stephsday

    My eyes watered. my heart skipped a beat. I love the beautiful imperfection of the pictures that you paint with your words. He is faithful. He is able. He is present. He is love. In spite of all our imperfections.

  • Jeniece Harris

    O my goodness. So inspiring. I also hope my daughter see’s me as imperfect but madly in love with the Lord. Beautifully said, keep writing :)