You could let me out now. This is my church, and I can always find my way home from here. -Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies
I often envy many of my friends here in the south, who chose to go to college close to home, and have since settled and are raising their children within mere miles of family and life-long friends. Though John and I are both somewhat adventurous by nature, and moving far from home has not been difficult for us (socially or otherwise), there are times when it is easy to throw myself miniature pity-parties in the name of access to free family babysitting, holiday visitations that require getting together for a big meal then promptly returning to our very own beds the same night, or simply the ease of conversation that comes in the presence of someone who knew me before I was Mrs. John Wait, or Eliott’s mom.
This is why, it does not cease to amaze me, that in the seven years we have been married, and in the three different cities we have lived, somehow John and I have managed to find ourselves among people who embrace us like they do their own family.
And always, it starts with a church.
To say that I try to avoid church-talk, whether in writing or in my personal life, isn’t inaccurate. Though I frequently claim to have but a very few close friends, the fact is, I remain connected with a handful of people from each major crossroads of my life, many of whom do not share my exact spiritual beliefs. Many of whom, further, might otherwise completely avoid people like me, except that something in our past brought us together in a way that even my current conservative-Baptist-church-member-label has not destroyed our friendship.
So it is always with a little trepidation that I venture to write using the one buzz-word that kills a conversation the quickest.
It struck me today. There is an entire Christian sub-culture that lives according to a claim that we share the same basic principles of faith. There is an entire Christian sub-culture that boasts of a personal sense of spirituality, a personal approach to faith and prayer, and a personal connection with the same God and the same Jesus who I also claim to know and follow. Yet, this sub-culture is adamantly and profoundly against the institution of the church. Familiar catch phrases including hypocrisy, legalism, judgement, and close-mindedness usually accompany the long list of reasons for so many people who otherwise believe what I believe, to avoid church.
I’m not saying I don’t see it.
I’m not saying those things don’t exist.
But I am going to say this. I am currently in the midst of a season of life that cannot imagine living without a church.
Because for us, church is not the hypocritical, legalistic, judgmental, close-minded thorn that the word has so sadly become to so many people.
It is not this at all. Instead, it is a couple that says, “You and John need to go have a night out because we’re coming over to watch your children next Friday.”
Church is another mom who says, “I’m not waiting till this baby gets here to bring you a meal. If you are anything like me, you don’t feel like cooking. I’m coming on Wednesday. With BBQ.”
It is a Thanksgiving table where we always invite ourselves, knowing that though we are not related by blood, we have become family.
Church is a group who pools resources together and, in the name of practicality and love, signs a card that includes one abundant gift, perhaps not fully realizing the impact of financially buffering a month’s worth of new-baby bills in lieu of 5,000 size 2 diapers.
Church is that same group of people who then turns around and says, “And absolutely do not sit down and write a hundred thank-you notes, because we love you and you have more important things to do in the next four weeks.”
It is not one, but two offers to be at the top of the list for a midnight phone call saying, “We’re going to the hospital, the girls are asleep, there’s a blanket and pillow on the couch, and cereal for breakfast.”
It is love, in the form of food, that seems to arrive (like the magic of the Disney Underground) when we expect it least and need it most.
It is support in the form of emails, texts, and phone calls, often from almost strangers, asking what we need, and then actually delivering.
I hesitate, of course, to boast of the power that comes when all of these people also pray. But it’s that too.
I am blessed. I am humbled. I have a foundation and a family who is willing to be the eyes, ears, and hands of those who are prohibited by distance. And none of this comes from one building, or one room, or even one exclusive group that we belong to because we pay our dues.
This community, this family, of support, has popped up from all over.
And the people seem to have one very important thing in common.
So– I just can’t help but wonder, to those who hate it, those who are fighting it, avoiding it, ignoring it, seeking an alternative to the C-word…
–Why? You have to be nuts to say no to all of this.