Tucker, the oldest of our two Italian Greyhounds (he’s the black and white one in the picture) is sitting in the red La-Z-Boy chair across the room from me. Tucker and his cousin Blu often keep me company as I work at my desk. They are more frequent visitors to my office since we retired the chair from the living room; the beaten La-Z-Boy had to be removed from public display not to hide the ripped upholstery (we covered that with a comforter), but because it now needs to be propped against a wall to prevent an uninitiated occupant from being dumped backward onto the floor. (Perhaps an argument for keeping it in the living room for visitors in need of humility, but I digress.)
Tucker is curled up tight on the chair. His companionship feels good, even after what I was helped to realize yesterday. You see, yesterday I said to my daughter, “It’s really cool how much the dogs like to be with me lately when I’m in my office. They really enjoy just being near me!”
“It’s not you, dad” she responded the 15-year old realist (bubble-burster) who is my daughter. “It’s the chair. They love that chair.”
She’s right, you know. It’s the chair. Not me.
Dogs. A chair’s best friend.
I paused from my work and went over to Tucker in the Lazy Boy. I sat on the floor and rubbed his back and his ears. He loves his “rubbins.” And I thought of this great analogy to “correct” people who go to church for the “wrong” reasons.
It went like this: We’re supposed to be in church to be in God’s presence, but how many of us go because we like the “chair.” We like seeing our friends, or the music, or the church itself. We go to church because it’s comfortable (like the old La-Z-Boy is for the dogs). If God happens to be there, then that’s fine too.
But as I rubbed Tucker, his joy in the attention I was paying him brought me back to God’s grace. Tucker may have come to my office for the chair and not for me, but he still got the affection and the attention and the love that I have for that companion of 8-years and counting.
The key isn’t our motivation for going to church, it is that God meets us there no matter why we’ve come.
And how can I of all people get high and mighty about why people should be in church? After all, when I was an unChristian I had only come back to church as a condition of dating my now-wife, Karen. But God still met me there. (That story’s here.)
God met me just as God meets everyone who gathers for worship, no matter why they are there. God comes to us in God’s Word, and in the singing, and in the bread and wine of communion. God comes to us in the community of God’s children, and in countless other more subtle ways.
Whether Tucker is here to be with me or to luxuriate on the La-Z-Boy, he’s going to get my love and attention.
We might be in church for “the chair” – whatever that means for us – but it is not our motivation that determines God’s presence. It is God’s infinite, unfailing love for us. God always comes to us.