Creases run vertical and horizontal across the photograph, gently folded, hidden away for safe keeping, and it's color has faded, yellowed by the years. The boys stand in a line oldest to youngest ranging from five to eight years of age. They are dressed in freshly creased pants, shirts, and sport bow ties. They would rather be in shorts and free instead of dressed in uncomfortable clothing. Another photograph, equally discolored and folded, picture a handsome man and his lovely wife. He is wearing his best suit and she a print dress, veiled hat and gloves. The date is unknown, but the occasion is Easter Sunday, one of the few days a year the family went to church. The old picture stirs memories of a simpler time where parents occasionally introduced us to God, but didn't make it a habit.
The youngest actual memory of church surfaces with the fragrance of a strong woman's perfume. Sitting in the middle of church trying to get comfortable on the hard wooden pews I snuggled against the thick soft arms of my grandmother. As stifling as the aroma of lilac could be there was nothing safer than hiding beneath her arms as the preacher droned on. To still the fidgeting my grandmother pacified me with a stick of Black Jack gum, and for the moment I was occupied. The songs and sermon have slipped from memory, but my grandmother's love and her desire to be in church has lingered.
It was a different time where everyone in the small farming community attended church, prayed for God's blessing, and enjoyed the familiarity of family and friends. Church wasn't forced but children grew up learning habits that would last, at least, another generation. This is the romantic image of church that I grew up with, peaceful, loving, and accepting. There were no conflicts and everything was good in the world.
Jesus said that we must come to the Father as children, full of trust and faith. They are innocent of adult sorrows and oblivious of the larger world around them. Seeing the world as new and adventurous they tend toward hope and a future. Only through experience does the innocence of childhood fade toward cynicism. Safety and security are exchanged for pain and suffering. We long for a simpler time where we can snuggle against the loving arms of our Heavenly Father and know that all is well.
As babies I am to desire God's Word, I am to hunger after his righteousness, I am to rest in his love and care. He is my safe haven where the cares of the world fade. He offers me the bread of life while the noise of the world drones on, and I close my eyes and know that this isn't why I hate church. I am just saying... (continued)