Friday, February 08, 2013

so, where do you go to church?

seven years ago, i sat impatiently in a cold, hard chair in a nondescript room, with dozens of impatient strangers, each of us holding a small piece of paper with a high number on it. we watch the clock, and the slowly changing numbers on the screen. we wait for the number on the screen to match the one on our paper. we watch one another, we fill out forms. that was the last time i was at the DMV.

i don't know how long i waited for my number to be called, hours probably. but i know i don't wish for that time back. as i sat there in that stale, nondescript room with impatient strangers, a woman sat next to me and our conversation changed me. 

she was at least 40 years older than i was; her hair was white and she was small. she was at the DMV by herself, too, and she wanted to talk.

my husband and i just moved back to Texas, she has lived here all her life. we have a 6 month old daughter, she has 4 grown children and 14 grandchildren living all over America. i'm getting my Texas driver's license, she's having hers renewed. it's going to be a hot summer, she stays indoors until Fall.

and then she asks me: where do you go to church? 

i quickly name the church nearest our new house, adding caveats. we've only been here a month or so, and, we're still looking. i'm sure i squirmed in my seat and checked to see if my number was any closer to being called. she goes on to tell me about her church, the small church on the corner with the Pastor she's known since gradeschool. she invites me in a way that doesn't command a response.

i'm still finding my breath and avoiding eye-contact. what a bold question to ask of a complete stranger in such a gray, public place. who goes there? but... she is old-fashioned and traditional. and a Texan. our conversation quiets. this inner dialog consumes me.

we've been here a month already. why don't we go to church? of course she'd assume we go to church. everyone goes to church. really? does everyone go to church? families go to church. we don't go to church. it's nobody's business. church talk is taboo. no one has ever asked me that before.      

no one had ever asked me that before. 

i was 27 years old and no one had ever asked me, as an adult, where i went to church. no one had ever made going to church seem so natural, so comfortable, a given, like it's completely normal for everyone.

the next summer, our daughter is 18 months old and in the Butterfly Class every Sunday morning while we are in service. over the course of the year after my chat with the lady at the DMV, my husband and i have serious hard talks about religion, Jesus, heaven, God, the Bible, and church. talks we definitely should have had before we were married. i cry and pray and find my faith, and he does the same. we visited that big church nearest our new home, and others. our relationship with Christ, and with one another, develops and deepens exponentially. we get God's word in our hearts. we teach our children about Jesus. we go to church and church is our family. it is so natural, so comfortable, a given, a new normal for us. not because we want to have an answer when someone asks us, but because in our hearts we know that's where God wants all of His children.

i want to find that lady and thank her for asking me a hard question in such an easy way. she has no idea that i thank God for her, that i wonder if she was an angel on assignment, or Jesus in disguise.

in her honor, i am bold. i ask complete strangers where they go to church. in public places, i talk about our Pastor and last week's message. at the playground while our kids play, i go there. at the library during storytime, i make it natural, comfortable. i bring it up in conversation with the new neighbor. i ask complete strangers where they go to church.

just in case no one has ever asked them before.

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters,
even though they are strangers to you.

photo credits: French DiskoRobert S. Donovan & jamelah via photopin cc