a short story, about a church, not unlike the Rez
Churches are like cracker boxes.
At least, that’s always been my theory. Peek through
the door and you’ll see people who are all made of the
same stuff. Who look, and sound, and probably all taste
the same. Lined up in neat little rows.
I grew up in a church. I did church every Sunday, until I
was finally old enough to quit. Then, I got even older
and realized I missed it.
So I went looking. I wasn’t looking for anything specific
or fancy. Just a church where I could fit in.
I tried one church where everyone was super
enthusiastic. Jumping. Shouting. And when I sat down,
some strange woman started praying for me loudly. I
don’t have enough energy for that.
I tried another where everyone was serious. And smart.
They all had the same book in their hands and somehow
knew when they were all supposed to turn the
page together in unison—creating this big whooshing
sound that rustled through the church on cue. I don’t
drink enough coffee for synchronized reading.
See, how do you go about finding a church, when you
don’t actually know what kind of cracker you are?
When you know that you love God, but aren’t that
crazy about institutions. When you love the idea of
community, but don’t always like people.
Then I tried this church. And it fooled me right off the bat.
See, normally when you walk in to an old-looking
building, where there’s an old-ish guy in white robes
and a white beard, you can pretty much size up what
kind of church it’s going to be on the spot.
But then a young woman, with a noisy kid in her arms
and a baseball jersey on told me she was a pastor there
too… and I didn’t know what to think.
So I stayed.
The first song they played was over three hundred
years old. The second one was by U2. And I couldn’t
even tell you what the third one was, only that the
Power Point got totally messed up and was missing part
of the chorus—and nobody seemed upset by that.
I kept coming. I tried a couple of evening services. One
was the most beautiful, unique spiritual experience I’ve
ever tried. The other was so weird that I snuck out
halfway through, only to run into someone else who
was leaving, and we ended up talking on the church
steps for an hour.
I tried one Bible study where the leader was so
passionate about social justice I half expected him to
suddenly march us all down the street to protest city
hall. But then another where the couple leading were
even more conservative than the church I’d left.
You know that adage that you know what a church is
really made of by how well their kids behave? Well,
here, the kids are just as equally a motley mix of
personality types. Not to mention, no one can seem to
agree from week to week if it’s a “dress nice” or a
“ripped jeans” kind of place.
Do I sound like I’m being critical? I’m not meaning to. I
mean, do you have any idea how relaxing it is to go to a
church where you don’t have to worry that you might
somehow be doing it wrong?
That you can sing … really sing… without worrying that
you don’t know the tune? Or listen… really listen… to
someone else without worrying you’re going to get in
trouble if you don’t agree with them?
These people? This church? It feels like God just came
along, ripped the church-shaped box wide open, and
just let these people fall out into the world. And some
of them are in the rows. And some are outside in the
garden. And some are downstairs getting trampled on
by the kids. And some are missing their edges,
or seem to be crumbling a bit.
These people smile a lot. They laugh when no one
knows who’s supposed to get up and read. And they
like those people who don’t always fit inside boxes.
They like the world outside the box too. They get out
into it. And do things. They like God a whole heck of a
lot. And I like them.
Last Sunday, I wore the most radical shirt I could find.
One person hugged me. Another invited me to join a
Facebook discussion, (and to be honest, I think I’m up
for a pretty lively debate with them there). And that
conservative couple I thought might be offended by it?
They invited me to their house for dinner. I went. It was
Look, I still don’t know what kind of cracker I am today.
In fact, I think I’ve given up on being a cracker and
joined the ranks of mixed nuts.
But I do know, I believe there’s a God.
There’s a God I want to know better, and
I want to figure out what knowing that God practically means.
And that I’m no longer
alone on this journey.