It may sound strange, but every single Sunday when our family pulls into the Brook Hills parking lot, I’m reminded that this place – this church – is somewhere we never expected to be.
It was almost 15 years ago when my husband David and I stepped through the doors of Brook Hills for the first time. Since we were from a different denominational background, we never expected to visit here, much less join. However, some of our neighbors had invited us to Brook Hills about, oh, forty-eight times, so we finally stepped out of our comfort zone and agreed to visit. I think it’s safe to say that David and I both assumed it would be a one-time deal.
Much to our surprise, though, we visited the next Sunday. And the next. Eventually, we started to call it “our” church. And not too long after our son, Alex, was born, we decided to become members. I don’t want to overstate it, but this was basically one of the most surprising developments of our whole lives. David and I grew up together in the same Methodist church – then joined an Episcopal church after we married – so we couldn’t get over the fact that we were actual Baptists. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? (I promise I’m laughing right now.) And in all seriousness, the sweetest part was that we knew the Lord had led us here. We knew that we were exactly where we were supposed to be.
And fifteen-ish years later, here we (still) are.
Church life, as y’all know, can be complicated. There have been times over the last fifteen years when I was so involved that I could’ve told you the extension numbers of most of the ministry assistants, and there have been times when I was so unplugged that I’ve sat in the middle of a congregation of 1,500 people and felt just as lonely as I could be. I’ve been challenged at our church, I’ve been broken here, I’ve been encouraged here, and to be really honest there have been a few times when I’ve been ticked off here. (Hey. It happens.) It’s been a place where David and I have grown in our faith and in our relationship with each other, but we’ve also sat through a few Sunday mornings when the music started and the tension between the two of us was so thick that you’d need a stick of dynamite to blast through it.
We’ve lived real life here. It’s been wonderful and messy and hilarious and frustrating and beautiful and refining. By God’s grace, this place has been home.
A couple of years ago our family was standing in the back of the sanctuary while we were waiting for a baptism, and our vantage point meant that we got to see all manner of folks walk into the service. Within a matter of minutes there were so many familiar faces: one of our pastor’s wives, a couple of Alex’s teachers, the mom of someone I taught eight or nine years ago, a friend from choir (back in the day when I used to sing in the choir), a former staff member who kept the nursery during Wednesday night church way back when, and a couple of friends whose boys are in Alex’s small group.
Right at 11:00 the music started, and I happened to be in a spot where I could see most of the sanctuary, which was full to overflowing. Alex asked if he could go stand with a friend of his, and after he found his buddy and started singing, I watched those two boys worship shoulder to shoulder. I thought about how many Sundays they’ve run up and down the hallways and stairs of this church, how many trips they made out to the playground when they were younger.
It’s the only church they’ve ever known. It’s home.
And as they walked down the aisle for the baptism about fifteen minutes later – as they watched their friend share his testimony – it occurred to me that while our church is about 20 times bigger than the one where David and I grew up, our big worship room is just as familiar to our son as wooden pews and stained glass windows were to us. That would have been impossible for me to imagine fifteen years ago.
And here’s the idea I couldn’t shake: In a church this size it can be easy to blend in, to hang back, to float in and out. We can convince ourselves that we’re most comfortable being slightly disconnected from the local body, that life is way easier if nobody knows our business, and that everything just runs a little more smoothly if we can check into church on Sunday morning and then check right back out on Sunday afternoon.
But oh, y’all – let’s don’t miss this: life is so much richer when we’re planted. We’re designed to dig deep together. We’re meant to shelter one another and huddle together when times are tough. We’re meant to establish deep roots alongside one another, to support one another, to grow and bloom and thrive together.
David and I didn’t have the foggiest idea about all of that when we first visited this church. We were just a young married couple who realized that there was a whole lot about living a surrendered life that we didn’t know – and we wanted to learn. We couldn’t have imagined how God would use the people in this place – the ones we’ve known and even the ones we haven’t – to teach us. To change us. Those changes haven’t always been easy, but they’ve been for our good. We trust that they’ve been for His glory.
If you’ve been a part of Brook Hills for a while, today is a great day to thank the Lord for how He has loved and taught and blessed you through the people here. It really is such a gift. And if you’ve been circling the perimeter a bit – unsure about joining a small group or singing in the choir or serving in the kids’ ministry or whatever – today just might be the perfect day to plant yourself in this place.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:24-25
Sophie's three favorite (not-so-serious) things about Sunday mornings at Brook Hills are 1) laughing with her small group 2) knowing there's a possibility we might get to sing "Saviour King" (the best of all the songs) and 3) listening to Chris Kinsley describe the Access Corner (it's a magical place). The author of three books, Sophie serves on staff at a local Christian school and is never happier than when she's at home with her family. Preferably in pajamas.
You can read more from Sophie on her blog boomama.net.
All women (6th grade and up) are invited to join us for BH Women Authors’ Night on Thursday, November 10. This is going to be a fun and uplifting evening to celebrate God's goodness shown in three distinct stories of Brook Hills women who have published a book in the past year, one of whom is Sophie Hudson. Visit brookhills.org/authorsnight for details.