New to the area, feeling a part in my new church was harder than I expected. Here I was in a town billed as the home of evangelical Christianity and famous Christian publishers–yet all the stuff I was hearing about churches was driving me mad.
Perhaps it was the simple foreignness of everything. I had lived overseas for 25 years, but recently married. My husband lived in the States, so here I was.
I appreciated the services, the pastor was great, Sunday School was interesting, but I just did not have a sense of connection. I joined the choir. The first day, all I could think was how set in his ways the director was. I was not impressed.
Everyone seemed so, so American. Well, they were American, and so was I. But my whole life-experience was colored by living in a different culture and language. I had learned that the American way was not the only way. But I also was not very impressed with the directions that the church in America had taken. Everything was so loud and slick.
But not in this congregation, the majority of whom were simple down-to-earth people. I think I began to realize the problem might be me the day I visited Dot for the first time. As we drove to her house I asked, “What does your husband do?”
“O, he’s a janitor with one of the major food manufacturers in the area. He’s been there 25 years,” she said proudly.
I swallowed the thought, “Gee, I never knew a janitor before, at least not as a friend…”
I thought of her husband Jack. A tall thin man, speaking too fast, leading the worship so earnestly, and with such a wacko sense of humor. He stood so proud when he led the morning songs.
I wondered what was wrong with me, thinking about making friends with a janitors wife.
I attended the weekly women’s Bible Study and enjoyed that as well. I always had some insight to share that seemed to be appreciated. Added the needs of my family to the prayer list, never found time to read other’s needs, and didn’t even wonder about it.
And then I got this job out of town. My husband and I discussed it, but we really didn’t have much choice. It was the only job I was offered.
Four weeks into the job, and away from home, I finally found time to sit with my Bible study materials. As I flipped through them, I found the prayer list for the different ladies in the group. I remembered each lady and looked at the different needs. A daughter’s studies, a job for a girl with little chance of getting one, salvation for another... the list was much longer than my own needs.
The phone rang. It was my husband with an update following the prayer meeting. Melinda, a sweet lady who was never not smiling had some kind of palsy and half her face was paralyzed. Pastor was discouraged over a crisis he’d been asked to help with, and the family involved would be so humiliated, if we didn’t know how to cover them with acceptance and love. O, and Denise sent greetings.
I pictured Melinda’s smile. I thought of Denise and how I had judged her in my heart for being herself. I thought about a family in need of love and acceptance. I realized, this was the church that I had been holding myself back from. Not the buildings, crystal cathedrals and crazymatics that I’d crossed upon over the years. The church was these people amongst whom the Lord had planted me… and here I had been looking down on them because they had seen a little less of the world than I had. And so I prayed and asked the Lord to forgive me, and help me to love His way and to be an encouragement to others, rather than seeking to be the center of attention.
I’m looking forward to going to church this Sunday.
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