Guest post #5 for May's Different Beautiful Church Series:
by Alisha Corbet
I do church differently and it’s beautiful because it’s so much better than what I had planned.
I grew up in two Baptist churches. They were small and my family of nine made up a good chunk of the congregation. I have fond memories of the churches we attended. An older couple that loved on us like we their grandchildren, hearing God’s word on a regular basis, training for Bible drills, and fellowship meals.
It was during a service at one of these churches I felt an inkling in my heart from the Holy Spirit, a longing for something more. With a little encouragement from my daddy, I went forward and publicly professed my faith, asking Jesus into my heart. I was baptized at Grand Oaks Church Camp, where I attended as a camper and volunteered as a CIT and a counselor.
Since the country church was small, there wasn’t much of a youth group, but I had a few Christian friends, most of whom I keep in regular contact with still today. Growing up I knew God was with me, but nevertheless, once I went to college I spent a couple years trying to do things my own way. The lessons during this season were hard but necessary.
God brought people alongside me, and they helped me get back to him. I attended a Christian Church, where I met and married my husband, Aaron. We attended church every Sunday, led a small group, bought a house, had a baby.
We’d been at our church for a while. It was familiar and comfortable. My husband threw me a curve ball one day, after His second annual training with the Army Reserve, telling me he wanted to join the military full-time. My immediate response was to spend time in prayer, making sure it was what God wanted. The next day was Sunday, we attended church and got our answer. I can’t tell you what our pastor preached on that day, but his message encouraged us to do something so out of our comfort zone that if God’s not in it, things will fall apart. Even though I didn’t like what I heard, I knew in my heart this change was part of His plan.
My husband submitted his paperwork in the fall of 2013, about the time we got pregnant with our second child. He was picked up for recruiting in the spring of 2014. He left for school that June, a few days before our second daughter was born. Our church family rallied around us at this time. The girls and I had meals for several weeks, we were showered with gifts and help. Aaron received several cards and notes of encouragement during this time as well. I knew we were in God’s plan, but that didn’t lessen the anxiety over our upcoming move.
That fall, we moved from everything comfortable and familiar to a town where we knew no one. We had God, each other and two little ones, 2 and 4 months. Despite Aaron’s busy work schedule, we worked to settle in to our new home and found a non-denominational church. The teaching was good and biblical, they had a good men’s ministry, but I felt lost in the crowd and longed for a community connection I never really found.
I tried to put on a good face for my husband, but that only lasted a few months. After an extremely long day of dealing with our girls, I was at my ropes end, and finally confessed my longing for community and relationships I didn't have here. He took it upon himself to call other local churches during his lunch break, to find a church offering a women’s bible study for me and programing for our girls.
It's no coincidence we only received one call back from a local Christian church. The first time we attended was for a Wednesday night meal and Bible study, and I poured out months of heartache to these women. They didn’t know me from Adam, but they were my sisters in Christ and they listened without judgment and offered love and encouragement to my weary soul.
We attended the following Sunday, where we were welcomed with love. We had only attended church there for a few months when we needed them in a big way, and they showed up. I was put on temporary bedrest when I was pregnant with our third baby. We were away from family, Aaron was working a crazy schedule and I was home with two little ones, unable to do anything for myself.
I received a text from our pastor’s wife saying a meal train had been set up for the week. I received names of women, many of whom I didn't recognize yet, who would provide childcare. As they showed up, I put names and faces together; Ady’s Sunday school teacher, one of the nursery workers, friends from Bible study. They cooked, cleaned, and cared for my kids when I couldn’t. They put action to being the hands and feet of Jesus.
We placed our membership at this church a few weeks later. We spent the next two years plugging in; participating in Bible studies, Sunday school classes, church events, I even spent a year in leadership as part of the MOPS (Mothers Of PreschoolerS) group. This season was a tough one: we struggled in our marriage, Aaron’s job was super stressful, I had an attack of appendicitis, and they found cancer, which led to two more surgeries.
Even though this season was tough, God provided. There were couples several couples that helped us pour into our marriage; counseling, a listening ear, childcare for date nights and a marriage retreat, and an opportunity for Aaron and me to be a part of individual spiritual retreats. We put down roots and were building relationships. Then, it was time to move again.
We are in our third home now. We’ve been here about six months and are still settling in (some days it feels like a never-ending process). We are currently in our for-now (military life makes for changes) church home, back to my Baptist roots. We're attending a class to learn about membership, I’m participated in the MOPS group, and plan to have some sort of leadership role in it next year. We are putting down roots again, trying to figure out how we fit, and the ways God will use us here.
I’d like to close with the following verses from Ephesians 3:16-19
I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with His power through His spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the Lord’s Holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.
No matter where he takes us in life, if we are rooted first and foremost in him and his love, all the rest will come in time. Trust in the journey! He is faithful!
To read Guest Post #1 in this series: This Year On Good Friday
Guest Post #2: I Do Church Differently Than My Ancestors Did
Guest Post #4: Silence Is Meaningful And Other Lessons Quakers Teach Us