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Monday, August 24, 2015

This Christian Has No Idea When to Stand During Church.

Happy Monday, friends! The following post is an excerpt from a work-in-progress called Prodigal Sister: Redeeming Stories for the Bad Girl Coming Home.

It's a collection of essays about being single. Struggling with faith. And making the decision time and time again to return to Christ.

I never knew when to stand up during church services.

I must’ve missed that lesson the year our eighth grade Sunday school group went through the Confirmation class in the Presbyterian Church.

Yet, that couldn’t be true, because our family never missed a service.

Regardless, I was always caught off guard when the other members of our church made an impromptu surge to their feet. I’d hear the stampeded of heels to the floor and bulletins fluttering to the seats behind them. And only then would I feel the need to quickly follow suit.

Of course, I can respond to the prompting of the pastor or even the written instructions in the church bulletin.

Please stand if you’re able.

Please stand and greet your neighbor.

Please stand as we sing hymn number 478.

Please stand for the benediction.

But, even with all our collective church experience on our family’s resume, when the Holy Spirit moved in our church, when the music swelled into a dramatic key change or when a woman gave her testimony one element of worship remained the same: the adults, the real Believers in our congregation stood.

It was perplexing. If no one told us to stand during a worship song toward the end of the service, then why was everyone moved to their feet? Where was it in the Bible, this manual for life, that explained this phenomenon?

Was it in a Testament between the Old and the New that I 

was missing? Or was I missing something else entirely?


Maybe I was too distracted by the high yellow walls and the black and white checkered floors of my home church in Richmond, Virginia. Maybe the pews were too hard on my thighs. Or maybe I was caught up in wondering how much longer it would be until Mom passed a roll of berry-flavored Lifesavers down our row.

I knew this knowledge-gap was a problem, so I watched Dad carefully. He was a respected leader, a loving husband and a perfect storm of playful, kind and firm when it came to guiding his children. Surely, he knew when to stand up. I followed his lead.

Sometimes, I’d even have to keep one eye open during prayer to see if he was simply closing his eyes, bowing his head, or burying his face in his hands. If Dad was the sort of Christian who bent over in the pew during prayer, I wanted to be that sort of Christian, too.

So, a few months ago when the pastor asked congregation to stand if they had sin in their lives that they knew the needed redemption for, I stood. I was in the front row, and I couldn’t be sure, but we all have sin, don’t we?

This was the pastor’s prompt for everyone to stand, right?

I craned my ears and listened for the familiar stampede of heels to the floor and rustling of bulletins. But there was nothing. Just a few of us foolish, honest sinners standing among a congregation weighed down, legs and arms crosses in their seats by their own righteousness.

Even after the pastor thanked those of us who stood, and even though I was 25 years old at the time, I still felt very much like the same naive child. For standing up. For owning up to my mistakes. For being pin-pointed in a chapel full of my peers.


I wished then that Mom and Dad were book-ending the pew with me again. At least they would have stood up beside me. At least there would have been berry-flavored Lifesavers.

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