Growing up in a Christian household, my parents encouraged us to continue 'church' outside of church and make sure we spoke to God every single day, not just on Sundays. We did this through family devotion time - the family that prays together, stays together - and our own personal devotion time. We would be encouraged to share anything we had learnt during the week in our family devotion time which kept everyone on their toes. I loved these moments when we would get the opportunity to talk about what we had learnt, but also get a better understanding from a different perspective. There was never any ceremony in our family devotion time, just worship and learning, and it was great! I for one never felt any need to know more than anyone and didn't worry too much about knowing everything. I just wanted to learn and focused all my attention on doing just that!
As I grew older, attending church became more about the activities I carried out on Sundays and very soon I found myself prioritising these tasks over everything else. I became like Martha, focused on being the 'hostess with the mostest', making others feel welcome in church but then crying inside because I wanted to be like Mary and sit at the feet of Jesus and learn. This yearning drove me to seek God in my own personal quiet time. this worked very well and allowed me to have meaningful time with God where nothing was what I expected and everything exceeded my expectations. I started to find God all around me - in the supermarket, at work, on my journey to work, etc. I realised then that I had been looking for God in just the one place, not expecting to experience the beauty of His presence anywhere else.
Because I had got so used to going to church, I restricted God and only expected Him to move on a Sunday morning when I went to meet Him. In addition to my busy bodying in church, I noticed a startling difference between my quiet time with God and church services. Don't get me wrong, the services were never the issue. The issue was my mindset in and outside of the church. I had boxed my relationship with God into the confines of Sunday service and had no expectations outside of Sunday mornings. I lived like this for years until God tapped me on the shoulder. He started to show me things no one else around me could explain so the only thing I could do was go to Him and that's really when my relationship with God began to grow. Up until then, I had relied on learning from others and this time, God Himself was showing me the path I was to take. I became like the deer in Psalm 42:1 as my longing to know God grew more and more.
I value that transition of that personal yearning and longing for His presence, now more than ever, because it led me to some of the greatest experiences of my life. I'm grateful that I heard the call of God, outside of my church attendance, to take the first steps towards building a relationship with Him. And I would like to encourage anyone who has a similar experience of leaving church and not feeling satisfied, don't give up. Be patient. God is with you and also longs for a relationship with you. Continue to draw near to Him and He will draw near to you!