My Ragtag Warehouse-full of Dreamers

A few months ago, I was helping in my church’s preschool ministry when I noticed a 5-year-old pacing the hallway where I sat preparing a craft. She was scared to go back into her classroom, even though she’d been coming to this church for years.

Little girl: They shut the door.
Me: You know you can reach the handle… so why don’t you open it up?
Little girl: They won’t want me. They will kick me out. They don’t like me.
Me, shocked: Silly girl, they love you in there! You have so many friends here just waiting to play with you. Let me show you…

I was right. I opened the door, led her inside, and she was just fine. But that scene tugged at my heart because just three years ago, I was that girl. Standing outside a new church each week in my new city, wondering if anyone was going to accept me.

“Will this church be the family I need? Will they want me?”

Week after week, I tried to strike up conversations with church members, looked into their ministries and attended awkward Sunday School classes. I was doing this alone, so I disciplined myself to make a list of potential churches so I never missed a Sunday out of discouragement or apathy. I had moved to this new city in June. By August, I ran out of churches on my list. So I searched Google Maps for my own address and started clicking websites. By late September, I was over the novelty of it. I was crumbling with a lack of community and transitional anxiety. I needed to find a church. Now.

Then one Sunday, I visited a small, but rapidly growing, church that met in a warehouse. A kind stranger invited me to sit with her family. I found fellow Baylor alumni and others with a heart for missions. It wasn’t always sunshine and daisies learning to trust others, particularly church people, after months of church searching, but beautiful things grow slowly.

Three and a half years later, I leave this church every Sunday overwhelmed with gratitude for these people. They would be the first to say it’s not because they are particularly special, but because we all know what it is like to be on the outside looking in. We have been through seasons in the past where we left church every Sunday even more broken, more lonely, more confused than when we entered it. We know what it is like to cry through a Sunday afternoon because we got our hopes up again:

“Will this church be the family I need? Will they want me?”

And the answer was no, over and over, until we all found each other. In a warehouse with plastic chairs and concrete floors and no masks. No pretenses or perfection. Just messy lives brought together into a community seeking Jesus.

The church search is grueling and exhausting and so very vulnerable. But it’s so worth it.

 

The hard part is, what may be the right church for one person is incredibly uncomfortable for someone else. What may be home for you might be an alien planet for the next guy. But hard things are the ones that are worth doing. Deep, biblical community doesn’t come in a microwavable container or a Big Mac wrapper. It takes years of tiny steps, of those vulnerable questions – “Will you love me? Will you want me?” – being answered with affirmation, for belonging to take root.

But before you get there, you will need to pursue it. To keep searching until you feel that tug of the Spirit or that smile of a friendly face or a sermon that hits close to home in the best way. You may never get a “sign from heaven” or instantly feel your anxieties melt away when you walk in the door. You will need to go back a few times to make sure with some places and in others you will know before the closing songs.

Don’t give up. Never give up on the Bride. No matter how long it takes, whether you use Google Maps or the religion section of your local newspaper, find a body of believers to love and serve beside. God will use it to change you and heal you in ways nothing else can, and together, you can impact eternity.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s