Saturday, March 24, 2007
I wonder if going home is simpler for non-Christians? They don’t have the duality of layers and places of home coming that Christians do. Do they? Part of going home was returning to the church of my youth. A small, mostly Dutch congregation in the middle of the Kansas prairie. A place that my maternal family helped to build. A place where my paternal grandfather was once the pastor.
Where do I start? When I was young, my grandfather was still the pastor. I remember imitating him throughout the sermon including standing on the pew and facing those behind me, hands raised in benediction at the end of the service. After he left, I cried when other people stepped into the pulpit. My grandfather was the only person who belonged there.
When I was very young the pews did not have cushions as they did later. There was no air conditioning but we had wonderful illustrated cardboard fans on sticks that resembled tongue depressors. But those are externals.
I do not recall much about the subsequent ministers until I was in high school. What I do remember about my early years there was things like Vacation Bible School. I remember sitting on the cement lighting matches and blowing them out so we could make match stick crosses. I remember gathering in the sanctuary and being led in Ken Medema songs by my Uncle D.
I am sorry to say that faith did not really touch me in those years. At least not until I was in Junior High when my older cousin L became a staff member for Teens For Christ. We began attending the weekly meetings and when I was in eighth grade, I went on my first mission trip. But you know – I am, as I have said before, a rebellious person. While these experiences were good and places for growth, I was still a wildly sinful young woman – not in the quiet habitual way that we all sin daily but in that rebellious burn that wants to leave as many marks as possible. I sinned in the most knowing and hurtful way possible.
I went to college – one affiliated with the denomination of my church. And there I learned – I learned something about the theology of our church or at least what it was said to be. It was surprising and mind opening – I thought maybe I had the answers. I didn’t.
The years since college have been long and difficult spiritually. Do I need to detail that here? Probably not. I need only to say that where we ended is an ecumenical non-denominational church where I feel like I am growing. Am I growing more than before? No – growth happens when you listen to God – if He works in your life you will grow. But I am now in a church where the growth feels supported – as if there is a trellis that sustains me as I try to climb where God leads me. A place where I feel slightly less alone.
Was I alone before? No. As I sat in that old church for my grandfather’s funeral. I saw faces that filled me with the same emotions I have when sitting in my new church. I saw connections and relationships. Some of the lines are twisted and frayed by bad experience and some were strengthened by shared love and trust and faith. But all lines were covered by God’s grace. We are all connected because we are all of the same body. I listened to the same men’s quartet that sang when I was young. They were older. One was heavier. Another was more stooped. One had a hearing aid. But they sang in a way that seemed more mellow and embracing than before. I imagine the passage of years will do that.
I saw relatives I had not seen in years. I visited with them. I reaffirmed that we are family. It matters little what they have done. An insult twenty years ago – well it is history and we are still related and that can’t change.
What I see more clearly when I sit in a pew than when I sit or stand anywhere else is how we are all so terribly broken. Somehow, God softens my heart. I look at those around me and I wonder that we all stand broken before God. What a powerful bond to draw us together to stand broken under God’s grace and forgiveness. To know that we are all weak. So weak that not a single one of us could take one step towards God on our own. Thank God for that.
more to come...