the year I stopped being a proper-church-attender and learned to just be with God

I always loved Sunday mornings. Up early, my hair pinned and primped with frizz tamed. Long skirts that flowed around my ankles or knee-length ones, paired with colored tights and high heels. It was often the only day of the week that I wore makeup, not overly done but a bit of eyeliner and face powder to make myself presentable.

I loved seeing friends and family, singing, playing piano, talking for hours after the service…

Yet, somewhere in the turning of time a sliver of something ugly began to creep into my heart. In the midst of a society that was quickly becoming more and more relaxed in dress and interaction, I knew how to look and act acceptable. I became a proper-church-attender.

Oh, how I cringe at that truth.

I was always presentable. I always looked proper. I always sang the right notes and talked to the right people. I did everything right but something was very, very wrong.

Soon I was working full-time and doing ministry full-time. Tired is a pretty accurate word to describe that period of my life. I quickly learned that Sunday had to be a day of rest… but I had conditioned myself to make it a day of presentation.

I wanted to look and act how I thought in my head that everyone should look and act. But I no longer had the strength or fortitude to continue.  I was tired of dressing up.

I mean that  figuratively but also physically. I dressed up for work and then went directly into ministry-mode and spent all day in heels and pantyhose with my hair pinned up. I was exhausted and was sorely tempted to just start skipping church all together, even though I knew, so clearly, what Scripture says about not giving up meeting together.

I was wore right thin and when I went to God and said, “I can’t handle this much longer.” He told me a very interesting thing.

“Stop dressing up, Tasha, and just be with Me.

For an entire year I wore jeans and a hoody sweatshirt to church. Comfortable. Soft. I wore slip on shoes and spent most of my time out of them.

It wasn’t about what I wore or didn’t wear at church. It was about stopping the presentation and stopping the sinful pride that had crept into my heart. It was about giving up my picture-perfect ideal and settling into the reality.

Reality was that I needed a day of softness and dressing down and just being with God. It was a time of soaking in tight and worshiping with abandon and giving up on any pretense of “looking right” and just leaning hard into Christ and my base need of redemption and grace.

It was the year I learned to be with God, right at church. Which might seem like a no-brainer, but for this church-attender-since-before-my-birth, it wasn’t.

I sat quiet in the back row, after a lifetime of front row sitting, and closed my eyes tight and only sang the songs that I believed in. I kicked off my shoes at the door, curled up with my feet under me on the bench, and prayed prayers of devotion and love to my God during the service.

I stopped teaching, stopped singing or playing piano on the worship team. I retreated, far back, and used Sunday mornings as a time to breath deep.

Sometimes I even left. Slipped out softly and walked the streets of town, stopping to talk to people sitting on their porches or walking the same sidewalk as I. Often our conversation turned to the Creator and I was humbled right quiet by the holy worship I heard from these random people whose names I never learned.

Other times I would hide under the big apple tree in the church’s side yard and lean my head back, watching the way the tree limbs moved in the breeze.

I lived out the year and I built an altar. One of jeans and hoody sweatshirts and barefoot toes on the church carpet. One of softness and closeness and a God who whispers gentleness into my quiet moments.

He is a God who brings peace and rest into the midst of our busyness. And I had allowed my desire for approval from men to close my ears to His grace. How thankful I am that He never gives up on me.

I try to return to that altar at times. I leave my elegant skirts and colored tights and high heeled shoes at home. I slip into jeans or a hoody and break the mold of dressing up for Sunday mornings. Not out of disrespect for God, or as a judgement to anyone, but simply as a reminder of the time when I learned deep that God doesn’t look at outward appearance. He looks at the heart.

And what He desires most is a heart that is willing to stop the madness of presentation
and simply be with Him. 

I Samuel 16:7

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13 thoughts on “the year I stopped being a proper-church-attender and learned to just be with God

  1. This is perfect. I sometimes get tired of trying to put on a face for people at church. This year, I have cried on numerous occasions at church, I often don’t wear shoes, and (gasp) I talk to my friend during the service in order to show her a verse. It’s been good. I’ve enjoyed church a lot more now that I’ve relaxed some. I can’t say I’m going to wear sweats to church because I enjoy dressing up in a skirt after wearing jeans and t-shirt all week to class.

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    • It is definitely a fine balance. And now that I wear jeans and a t-shirt most days on the farm, I love the chance to pull out my skirts and dresses. 🙂 But it is definitely a lesson that I treasure– the ability to step back and just be with Christ without worrying about anyone else.

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  2. Wonderful, this is a big reason why my husband and I stopped attending a popular dress up church in favor of a smaller community-based, come-as-you-are church. I remember agonizing over what to wear each Sunday and not repeating an outfit. More recently I’ve stepped off the worship team and stopped teaching Sunday school. I found that I placed too much importance on “doing” instead of “being” while at church. I wanted to skip church some Sundays and do a service project or spend time just reading my Bible or journaling. I hope that these simple changes will open me up to a deeper understanding of spirit.

    Leaving church before the service is over and singing along only when you want to..? REVOLUTIONARY. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for saying what has been in my heart for so long.

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    • There are definitely a need to enjoy the seasons of life. Sometimes my church involvement in high and I have the energy and vision to work and do and be right in the middle of the happenings—

      and other times I just need to sit stiller and softer.

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  3. I love this so much! I used to walk by the creek while babysitting my baby sister so mom could go to church when we lived in Minnesota. Now, I never do. The door to get out squeeks to loudly 😉

    I do love the idea of not dressing up for church. Not that I dress up in heels very often (eeeek) but you can be just as worried about your appearance when you aren’t even planning to wear make-up, and you can be just as worried and preoccupied about your hair if you just do it in a pony tail as when you put elaborate curls in it. And although it is good to want to look nice, sometimes my whole sunday is spoiled because I’m having a bad hair day!

    So thanks for this reminder, that puts it into words I never thought of!

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  4. LOVE this! =) We went to a church for a long time where even the pastor wore blue jeans and sandals. I often thought that was closer to what a modern Jesus would wear than a suit and tie are! Now we are back in a church where the pastor wears his suit and tie, except in the brutal heat of summer, and I wonder why it is such a big deal. Traditions of men trumping the heart of God, I suppose. We do it too often and in too many ways! I’m glad you took that year, sweet friend! And that you shared it with us!

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  5. You spoke to my heart, Natasha! I’m slowly coming to the place where I can be confident in who I am in Christ and not worry about the rest.

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  6. Oh, how I wish I could share this with so many people….my in laws in particular.

    I used to feel badly that Matt and I wouldn’t wear suits and dresses to church, but over the years it just has become less important than the time spent in His presence.

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    • It’s funny because how we dress or don’t dress for church has traditionally been a cultural thing– (i.e. in the 50’s you dressed up and in the 2000’s people started dressing down more.) and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

      But it seems to me that there are a lot of people who tend to dress up or down based on other people’s opinions of them– and that’s where we run smack up against pride.

      And being real with others and God (while still trying not to be disrespectful on either front) is so, so important.

      This story was from way before I was married but one of the things I love about my husband is that he wears jeans to church… in fact, he wore jeans at our wedding. Lol!

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