Thursday, June 5, 2014

I Hated Sundays!

Illustration by: Salvatore Vuono

It all started many years ago. I was a new missionary in Spain. I didn’t speak one word of Spanish, not one. I couldn’t say “hello” or make a simple comment. Zip. Nada. (I learned nada later!)

I’d go to church where not one person besides missionaries spoke English, sit down with an active baby on my lap, and listen. The people filed in and smiled at me, and I smiled back. The Spanish pastor got up and preached. Sometimes, the people would laugh. The pastor was a man who didn’t use much facial expression or hand movements. He was fairly monotone—although maybe I only thought so, since I couldn’t understand anything.

I was having a hard time keeping Baby quiet and keeping myself awake. Such a “blessing” going to church! I’d go in, understand nothing, and go home very tired and uninspired. This happened Sunday after Sunday for about a year.

We were in language school. (When you start from zero, you have a lot to learn!) Once in a while, I’d actually understand a word or two the pastor said. (I’m not exaggerating. I would get one word here, another there.) Wonderful! I got a “the” and “friend” and tried to build a whole message on those two words. I still went home Sunday after Sunday, non-blessed. Two services . . . every Sunday.

I started volunteering for nursery duty. The toddlers taught me more words than I gleaned from the message. “Food.” “Play.” “No.” Valuable words.

Back in the services, something started to happen. I could comprehend a few thoughts and themes. I didn’t get but half of the words, but I was half understanding the message—for about thirty minutes. Then, after trying so hard, intensely watching the pastor’s lips, I was bushed! I slept. Every. Single. Service. After a half hour, in every service, Missionary Wife was out for the count.

Did I tell you I hated Sundays?

Somewhere during that first five-year term, I began understanding up to 90% of the pastor’s words. It was wonderful! I got something from the messages. The Word—well, what I understood—ministered to my heart, and I started to like Sundays. What a relief!

By our second missionary term we were fluent in Spanish and had a ministry with young people. By now, we had two little ones to keep quiet in church. Due to an outside influence, the atmosphere in the church had changed, and I confess I just wanted to get out of there. Yep, I was too human, too affected by others’ cloudy moods, and too not relying on the Holy Spirit for my joy. So, I hated Sundays . . . again.

Thankfully, we were almost ready to start our new church. The building took a lot of preparation, but we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. We even started intimate Wednesday prayer meetings in the new, unfinished building. Those were a blessing. But, I still hated Sundays because of the raincloud and poisonous feelings toward foreigners—us.

I loved Sundays again for a while. The new church was growing. It was nice not to have negativity.

Then, several people began to spar verbally . . . every service. We decided to have breakfasts at church, thinking that, if their mouths were busy chewing, it would help the atmosphere. It worked pretty well, and I started liking Sundays again.

Especially if you have children, you’ll understand the saying, “By the time you get to church, you need to be in church.” Make sure everyone is clean, dressed nicely, in the car on time, with Bibles in hand. (It’s not only the children who don’t quite make it!) So, the family is out of sorts, and maybe Missionary Wife, too. If we ever needed sanctification—you guessed it—it’s on Sundays!

When do you and the kids get sick? Saturday night.

When do you feel the lousiest? Sunday morning.

When would you like to just forget the day and crawl right back under the covers? Sunday!

I hated Sundays.

I have some practical advice for those of you who understand the “Sunday problem.” (If you wake up every Sunday with a smile on your face, a spring in your step, anticipation in your heart, and your children in matching clothes, these are not for you.) If you understood the rest of this post, even partially, you might find something useful here:
  1. Remember why we go to church—to worship (praise and exalt) God. We don’t go to “get” anything. We go to lift up Jesus in corporate worship. Even if we can’t understand the messenger, we can spend our time in church exalting Him in our hearts, alongside other Christians.
  2. Remember not to fixate on people. The Bible tells us to think about: whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8). Instead of letting others affect our joy, we should think about the Lord Himself. He is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and worthy of your praise. It will change your Sunday!
  3. Be aware of the enemy. No one wants you to have a lousy Sunday more than the adversary. Your family will have more spiritual and physical attacks on the weekend than at any other time. Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:10-12) Make sure you have your spiritual armor on. Spend time in the Word. Spend time with God.
  4. Decide to have a positive and Christ-like attitude. By Friday, start praying specifically for the Sunday service(s). Ask God to anoint the messenger and to work in hearts. Ask the Lord to do a work in your own heart so that you can have a joyous countenance. If you have physical issues, ask the Lord to help you with pain levels and to give you the strength you need for Sunday. (Get enough sleep. Eat healthy. Exercise.) Ask God for wisdom in dealing with the ladies and children “sheep” God has given to your flock. Purpose to be an encouragement to your husband and to everyone else. It will make a difference! 
Sunday . . . the Lord’s Day.

I was glad when they said unto me,
Let us go into the house of the LORD.
(Psalm 122:1)

Love Sundays!

Illustration by: mapichai

  

5 comments:

Charity said...

Love love love this post! Yes, I totally understand the roller coaster of feelings about church day. A big hearty AMEN for the counsel you gave here! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I hate to admitt that I can relate to this. My situation is not as severe but I do not understand the message. I do know several words but it isn't helpful, almost more frustrating. Thank you so much for sharing your heart and the counsel you gave! Looking forward to Sunday.

Jburdett said...

I laughed and laughed at "the missionary wife was out for the count!" That was totally my husband during our first year here! 30 min was his limit. There are still songs we sing that we don't understand the words, but when we do acquire a new word, the song becomes sweeter! God is so gracious to us!

Anonymous said...

My name is Joanna, and I've been reading this blog for a while now, and it is so encouraging to see what missionaries go through! I'm 16, and currently in Peru on a missions trip for 2 months. I'm in high school, and have taken Spanish 1 and 2. The first few days I was here, I wondered if I should even try. I couldn't understand anything people were saying around me! The next day, I was able to have a"conversation"in Spanish! Yay... Church though is a different thing. I can get the general gist of the message mainly from following the passages picking up a few words. I still have a lot of time to keep learning, but it's my prayer that I would be able to keep picking up the language quickly!

Thank you all for the service you give every day for pie Savior! In Christ!
Joanna

Amy Meyers said...

I totally understand hating Sundays! Thanks for the advice you shared to keep our emotions in the right place.