I grew up in a little church in a small town. It was one of those churches where everyone had “their” seat. If you were missing from church, there was a genuine concern, because you just didn’t skip church.
Church attendance was highly valued during my childhood. My father had the opinion that if you were a member of a church, then you should support it with your presence. Attending church seemed black-and-white growing up. If the church was having service, I should be there.
As an adult, I have come to see the grey area.
There have been several times over the past few years when I have had to keep my daughter isolated from large groups of people. Her medical history is complicated and long, but a common cold can turn our world upside down for weeks. She’s been in the ICU 8 times for a respiratory issue. There have been other times when she is not admitted to the hospital, but I am doing interventions at home to keep her there.
Initially, not attending church to keep my daughter safe from germs was a concept that caused me to struggle. After all, I grew up believing that you should rarely miss church. I had guilt and felt I was doing something really wrong. I agonized over the decision to stay at home for a set amount of time. I wanted to keep my daughter protected when her immune system was weakened, but maybe I was too fearful of germs and needed to simply trust God to protect her. This is the grey area of church attendance that has caused me to doubt my own faithfulness to the God I serve.
I have made peace with my poor attendance now. I realize it is a necessary part of my daughter’s health, especially after a hospital stay, surgery, or illness.
Whenever I am struggling over what to do, I ask myself one question. Is it fair to take a risk to compromise my daughter’s health when she has no say? If I were the one just getting out of the hospital, would I put myself in a situation that may potentially put myself back in danger? Nope! I would try to avoid going back to the hospital!
I’m not a proponent of missing church, but I am no longer bogged down with guilt over my poor church attendance during certain moments in my daughter’s life. Even if she and I don’t attend, I try to watch a sermon on-line, read scriptures to her, or do something to honor God that day. After all, my desire is to be at church where my soul can be refreshed, but sometimes it is not always possible.
If there are any other families out there sitting at home with their medically fragile child when they would normally be worshipping in a church building, then know that you are not alone.
You don’t need to feel guilty or second guess your faith status. You are doing the right thing for your child. I hope that your special family can find a way to pursue God in lieu of a formal service.
Evana is a wife and mother of two children. Since becoming a parent, Evana has spent many hours driving to specialty appointments, praying beside a hospital bed, and learning about her children’s diagnoses. Evana is also a pediatric speech-language pathologist and serves children with autism, feeding disorders, and other developmental delays. You can connect with Evana on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog, A Special Purposed Life.