As fast as you can

(c) 2009 Vestman, Flickr // via Wylio

He ran down the aisle with a handful of coins.  Although, to be fair, it wasn’t so much a “run” as a hunched-over, speedy walk that seems common to boys with un-tucked button-down shirts and untied shoelaces.  I worried for him that he might trip over his feet and spill his coins in his haste to get to the front of the church, but he didn’t seem worried at all.  He just smiled.  I don’t think he could help himself.  When he got to the altar table to leave his offering in the cloth bag marked for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, his demeanor changed ever so slightly.  He was careful and concentrated, not wanting to let even one penny slip from his hand.  Still he smiled.  I don’t think he could help it.

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I attend the same Southern Baptist church that my family started attending when we moved to Maryland when I was 12.  When I left to go to college in the Midwest, I certainly didn’t think I’d come back to the same Southern Baptist church.

My view of God, myself, other people,  and the world all began to take a shape that looked a lot less like my home church’s when I was in college, so when I moved back to Maryland after graduating I thought I would plug into a church with a more diverse congregation.  Diverse, I mean, in every sense of the word, but truth be told, I wanted a church with a younger demographic and a more modern way of reaching into world that didn’t involve tracts or “blitzing” neighborhoods.  At least, that’s what I thought I wanted.

Turns out that when I moved back to Maryland after graduating all that I really wanted was to be home.  And it turns out that “home” for me was to be found in the hugs of the little old ladies who sent me care packages of cookies and notes of encouragement when I was away from them.   It was to be found in the camaraderie of the other twenty-somethings as we figured out how to be adults together.  It was to be found in conversations with the teenagers whose Sunday school class I started teaching.  It was to be found in the innocence of children running up the aisles to offer up to God a pocket full of coins.

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I love my church, don’t get me wrong.  I’ve been “home” from college for almost seven years now and I have no sense of urgency to leave.  However, that doesn’t mean that I agree with or like everything about my church.  There are some days that it takes all the strength of God Himself to keep me seated in my pew.  Like, on a Sunday where marriage is touted as “the most important relationship you’ll have” and my single, 28 year old self is made to feel like all the pouring into that I do in my relationships just isn’t enough.  And while I’m sure that the person who said that didn’t intend to make me feel like that, it doesn’t take the sting out of the comment.  And it doesn’t make it easy to like my church in moments like that.

The thing is, though, I think I’m actively honoring God when I sit in the pew and I stay plugged into my church when I don’t like it.  I think I’m honoring the calling on my life to “return home and tell them what God has done for you” (Luke 8:39).  Because I think that just by sitting in the pew as a single, 28 year old female I’m demonstrating to the people of my church, to my youth girls particularly, that God doesn’t have everybody follow the same script.  I think I’m telling the people of my church that finding someone to partner with in marriage is good and righteous, but that God can write a really great story with someone who’s single most important relationship is the one she has with Him.  I think I’m telling them that bucking the system is a maybe the most glorifying thing we can do sometimes.

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When he ran up the aisle with his handful of coins and un-tucked shirt and untied shoes, he was bucking the system too.  He didn’t fill out the envelope or think about the tax-write off or worry about tripping over his shoelaces.  He didn’t care that people were watching him or worrying for him about his untied shoelaces. He just smiled and went as fast as he could to give God all he had to offer.

And that’s what I need to keep in mind when I get frustrated with my church.   There are broken and messy parts, parts that I don’t like and wish were different.  But, in spite of those parts, it’s a place where people smile and run as fast as they can to give God all they have to offer.

That’s not a bad place to call “home.”

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