One Friday, a year or two ago, we got food poisoning. We had gone out to eat at a Chinese buffet next to the dollar theatre, and before the final credits were rolling, we had one kid clutching an empty popcorn box like his life depended on it. He didn’t keep it close enough though, and by the time we got home, the back of our car was like the inside of a carnival ride. Cleaning that out turned my stomach, but I refused to succumb to the siren song of the porcelain bowl until 2 in the morning.
That Saturday, 3 out of 5 of us were miserably sick (the other 2 had eaten nothing but pizza at the buffet, so I guess if you’re going to choose cheap Chinese, pizza is the way to go). We called in sick and got substitutes to fill in for our church callings. At that point, we weren’t entirely sure that it was food poisoning and not something more contagious.
But by the time Sunday came around, we were feeling better. We were weak, to be sure, but that day spent relaxing, cooking, and reading together was fantastic. We were well enough to enjoy not being at church. And so my husband had the idea that we should have a “sabbath of the sabbaths” in which we would just take off every 7th Sunday, and make it a day a rest that we can actually enjoy together with our family. But as much as he liked the idea, we have never actually tried to implement it.
Shortly after we got shifted out of our ward through a boundary change, we had a month of very spotty church attendance. Because there was stake conference, a temple dedication, and general conference we didn’t meet with our congregation every Sunday. Looking ahead to that month, I thought it would be a nice break our regular Sunday calling church work, but I was wrong. It turns out that not going to church doesn’t make you appreciate church when you go back; it only makes you not want to go to church.
Our Sunday of recovery from food poisoning was delightful because it was a one time surprise. We were happy to go back the next week. But missing a couple of Sundays with our new ward family only made me feel less inclined to get back in the saddle.
So what have I learned?
1. No matter how tired I feel, or how much I’d like a break, I’d rather be at church than not. Because if I don’t go, it feels that much harder to go the next Sunday. And I want to go because I am committed to being an active participant in this church. I want to work to make this community I am in a part of Zion on earth.
2. I have great admiration for those saints who cannot attend church regularly and yet are still committed to the gospel. It must be much harder to feel a part of the ward family when work or health keep you from worshipping and working together with your fellow saints.
3. I am impressed by those who have taken a break from church and decided to reengage. I am a little afraid that I am so weak that if I stop going for a while, I would stop going forever, and so I both commit to attending consistently myself and applaud those who have greater strength of character than myself that allows them to return.
And I have learned to never, ever eat at cheap Chinese buffets. Never again.