We didn't really want to go there, yesterday, but we did. Bill, Abby and I talked about hope, for some reason, as we drove there. Abby brought up that word. She's amazingly instinctive and even a bit prophetic at times- for a 14 year old. So when we arrived at the church that we were going to visit that day, we carried that word with us as we went inside: hope, that we would be glad to say that we had gone to the house of the Lord, hope that we would feel "included" and not like wandering, uninvited strangers crashing a party, and hope that we would leave there...changed.
There was a part of me bucking and rearing deep inside, like a bull out of the chute. I did not want to go through "all this" again. If you care about being in fellowship with other Christians, if you want to find a church "home" as we call it, there's nothing worse for a disguised introvert like me than to walk into new settings where you supposedly should feel immediate love and bonding with the people there- because they're Christians.
But Christians can be mean, resistant to outsiders, rude, or cold. I should know- I'm one of them. I have my days and my moments and my seasons, even, where I am not in love with other Christians at all. You could even say that I get tired of these people, tired of our rules or our Agenda or our strange culture of love and grace and grim faced judgment. We want to be gracious and kind and above all meanness and spite- but we are not. I am not. I hate that about myself and when I go into a church I see people like me who are trying to get above it all, trying to see Him in all His reality- so that our reality changes.
So we went inside. And we were not sorry that we did. We were welcomed by people, but more than that, the presence of the Holy Spirit was strong, heavy, like a comforting blanket that descended from the heavens. We'd heard that this church was not exactly the most seeker sensitive, meaning that it expressed itself in fervent outspoken worship, sudden cries coming from people who call out the Name above all Names, behavior that is not staid and riveted to the seats in decorum and human nobility. I was quiet in my seat, but comfortable with all that was going on around me. I didn't know what I would hear next, what I would experience next , and I was so glad for that.
We left the church and drove home quieter in thought than when we had arrived. Did we find our church home? I don't know yet. But I do know that I was touched and I was changed. I went in there with my invisible shroud of hurt and guardedness. I left there reminded that I was not allowed to keep that shroud on. I have no right to dwell in the land of mistrust and suspicion and reservations.
"Enlarge the place of your dwelling..." Isaiah 54:2 begins. I believe that where I am to dwell is the Land of Hope. And my dwelling in this land is supposed to increase and spread out. Because these three remain- faith, hope, and love, the Bible tells us. Hope is wedged right in the middle, I think, because our faith in His love for us should cause Hope to arise and spread out, like the smile that suddenly appears on my face because He surprised me again. He always does.