It would be the seventh church Dana had attended in seven weeks. 3rd Street Church of Christ was situated on a corner in the north part of the city, just past the old industrial sector. The congregation clearly were diligent in keeping their property clean; across the street, torn napkins and other fragments of trash tumbled over the sidewalks and unkempt tufts of grass. Dana pulled into the parking lot and glanced around at the older model cars. What an unassuming place.
The first church she’d tried had a parking lot so large it needed attendants. Inside a band was onstage, assorted twentysomethings in jeans and fleece who were “on fire for the Lord” as they churned out contemporary Christian hits. Dana stood in the very back row, and no one spoke to her.
The second church was the opposite: fourteen people in a tiny building on the south side. The pastor was amiable and twice they all laughed aloud. But afterwards there were too many questions for her. And there were the invitations, to the bible study, to the potluck dinner. Their neediness was understandable, but Dana couldn’t go back. She couldn’t return to a place where they would search out her soul and expose all of the emptiness.
She had made the rounds to Faith Church, Hope Church, and Grace Church, with their harrowing meet and greets. Next was the Methodist church by her apartment. Their service was meticulously planned, with lots of back and forth in the hymnal, and recitations she never caught onto. The communion was lovely but she stayed back, content to watch as the mostly elderly congregation took their bread and juice and knelt before God.
Each week she asked herself, Where can I go to find my Lord?
3rd Street Church of Christ was just about her last hope. There was a smattering of people inside; Dana would guess no more than twenty-five. Some were talking quietly, their bibles open on their laps. Others were singing, almost as if to themselves, while the pianist nodded her head slowly and tapped out an accompaniment. Dana slid into her usual pew, the last.
At every church she had been to, she had gone in hopes of finally feeling Him. In every city she’d lived in she had searched for Him, in the store windows, in the faces of the nameless. She’d changed careers, wishing He would show Himself. She’d broken off relationships, lost contact with friends, succumbed to stress and to depression and to an ultimate loss of true faith…all the while wondering when He’d show up. Wondering why she had to try so hard to feel him when for others it seemed He’d always been there.
One of the men who had been singing softly got up and went to the front of the chapel, to the lectern and the microphone. “Blessings,” he said. He was middle-aged, Asian, and as he began his teaching his voice lilted over a fading accent.
It seemed he had a good message, but Dana’s thoughts wandered. She gazed at the stained glass windows, heavenly with their blue and green tiles, and strained to feel past the emptiness. Her heart ached.
“There’s someone here,” the preacher was saying, “who feels alone, incredibly alone. This person has believed all their life but has never truly felt God’s presence. They think that He has abandoned them…they think they are unloved.”
Dana looked away from the windows slowly.
“This person has gone from church to church, seeking, yearning for assurance.” The preacher closed his eyes. “He needs you to know that He is with you. He needs you to put aside your doubt and come to him without reservation, without fear. He is waiting to hold you close to Him, and for whatever reason, He has called on me to prove to you that He is real.”
Dana covered her face with her hands, and wave after wave of sobs caught in her throat as she forced them back in this quiet chapel.
My God…it’s You.
After the service, when Dana’s eyes had dried, the man in front of her turned around. “So what’d you think?”
“Does he do that all the time? Pick people out…?”
“No, not that I know of. Kind of strange.” He smiled. “So what brings you here?”
Dana tilted her head slightly, avoiding his gaze. “I’ve been shopping around for a church.”
“Mm. Did you find what you were looking for?”
“Seek me and live…” Amos 5:4
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