I have a long history with church. While my dad was leading singing, my mom was prepping communion and teaching Sunday school. I have secretly wondered if I was born at the hospital or in a church pew, because I have few memories that didn’t include our small church. That church family was my lifeline. At the time, I didn’t realize how critical that last statement was, but hindsight showed me.
My church experience has taken on many forms since my first days at the small church on the wrong side of town. I’ve had disappointing seasons and times of tender healing. I have quit church in my head countless times and relied on the church for survival just as many.
The church has taken many hits recently. It has been seen as hateful and exclusive instead of kind and inclusive. Christians have been portrayed as narrow-minded. As in all things, I know there are examples that could substantiate each claim. I get that, but there’s something that crawls on me about broad stroking any group of people.
Full disclosure, because of the negative context affiliated with being a Christian, sometimes it’s hard to tell people I am one. Not in the “let me tell you about Jesus” kind of way, but in the “this is who I am and where my hope comes from” kind of way. I think people have pigeon-holed church-goers into one category; people that vote one way, dress one way, and only have enough intelligence to have one line of thinking.
I am currently attending church in a music studio with about 25 other people. We sit in folding chairs and the words to our songs are printed on paper. No smoke and lights, no big screens, and no offering plate. We do have simplicity, tacos, and gluten free communion. Sometimes we show up and a window has been broken, or the floors are so sticky you can create a beat just by repeatedly lifting your feet during worship.
This church is sustaining me in a dry season. It is teaching me and challenging me to live a life of love right where I am. That scares me, too. Living a life of love requires risk-taking when I would rather play it safe. One such opportunity found me on an early morning flight from Dallas to St. Louis.
I had hoped to read on the flight and enjoy the quiet. I was flying alone and knew the week ahead was not going to be easy. I was sitting in the window seat and thought I’d hit the jackpot when no one sat in the middle seat. Just before takeoff, a young man took the aisle seat and struck up a conversation with me. I immediately knew he had a high emotional intelligence. It was a fascinating conversation and somewhere amid talk of raising teenagers and the lack of kindness in society, he told me he was raised in a Christian home. By his tone of voice, I knew there was pain below the surface of that statement.
What happened next was NOT on my radar. He shared a little about his lifestyle and how that was a deal-breaker for some of his family. In that moment his pain began to make sense, and something was rising within me that I did not want to do. After listening for most of the hour, I knew we were soon to arrive at our destination. With sweaty palms, a very dry mouth, and a pounding heart, I did what was stirring in me over the course of the flight. I apologized to him.
I told this young man I felt compelled to say I was sorry if the church had hurt him. I did NOT want to do that. I thought it was absurd and knew it could go sideways. Because we had been talking the WHOLE flight, I knew the flight would soon be over. If he was mad, I could just shrink out of there and be on my way. That’s not actually what happened.
In the time remaining before touchdown, he politely brushed off my apology and affirmed a thought I had. He told me he would have shut down our conversation the moment he found out I was a Christian. Know why? He assumed it would mean an attitude of condemnation from me. It was a deeply spiritual and liberating conversation.
I have a long history with church, so do others. It’s not always bad, but it’s not always good. Church has been a safe place for me, but I recognize that’s not true for everyone. This underscores the value of our stories. Maybe you won’t have the opportunity to listen to the story of the person next to you on a flight, but you can listen to the person that cuts your hair or babysits your children. Before making assumptions or painting with broad strokes, invest in others by listening. Take the risk. What you learn might surprise you.
#MomentofTruthMonday #ChurchHistory #Apology #LifeofLove #LifeLessons