This is a church where jeans prevail over dress pants, and women won’t look down on you for failing to acknowledge Jesus with a dress’ knee-length hemline.
This is a church where you walk in and people know your name. And if you’ve taken the time to ask, you know their names too. Debi. Petey. Tim. Joni. Louie. Colby. Claire. Rod. Kate. Danae. Ronnie. Katy. Geneva. John. Chris. Tiffany. Andrew.
In this church, we take time to connect over free-of-charge coffee and tea and pastries that a certain coffee chain kindly donates to our Sunday morning services. Kids race each other, ducking in and out of rows of maroon, cushioned chairs purchased for our building by the lively Spanish congregation that meets in our sanctuary in the evenings. A pair of three-year-old girls eye the Communion crackers that haven’t been eaten, and no one smacks their hands for wanting to participate in this symbolic reflection of remembering to come into union with Jesus.
I’ve learned so much from my church family and from a compassionate pastor who wears baseball jerseys and Doc Martens when it snows. I’ve learned nature is a gift, to be explored and enjoyed. I’ve learned to care for my body as well as my mind and spirit. I’ve learned to lead we must serve, and I’ve learned we must go beyond the church doors with love, hope, and mercy if we wish to see true change in the world.
I’ve learned it’s okay to be who I am. It’s okay to love nerdy books, and it’s all right to talk about how I was inspired by The Hobbit or The Dark Knight Rises or The Return of the Jedi.
In this church, I realized it’s okay to be angry and it’s okay to experience emotions. Then instead of exploding like a shaken soda can, it’s good to ponder these feelings, give them to God as David does in Psalm 4, and invite a friend to help you in your journey.
In this church, I have learned how true it is that it is not good to be alone. We need each other. We’re a community. It’s not an unhealthy dependency that demands we always function in stride. No, it’s a healthy unit, a working body, a family that knows when to give advice and when to simply share a story and when to provide a car when yours is broken down or make a meal to take home when you’re out of food or say a prayer that communicates I really do care and I will be thinking about you.
In this church, I have rediscovered my voice. I have discovered who I am. I have discovered what God wants of women—not for us to be quiet when we should speak—but for us to embrace who He created us to each be. Unique. Beautiful. Relational. Powerful. Unified with sisters and brothers.
In this church, I have overcome grief. I have survived the deaths of a friend and a family member, and I have seen healing power overwhelm my husband‘s sickness.
In this church, age doesn’t matter. I have been invited to the table of a couple who already have shared their fortieth wedding anniversary, and I have held hands with a child as she showed me plants in her family’s backyard. I have danced. I have sung. I have attended a rock show within these walls. I have seen people overcome thoughts of suicide. I have dreamed of days in the future, and I have been encouraged to continue.
In this church, I realized the power of God’s redemptive story. He loves me deeply, and He loves you. He wants relationship with us, and He wants to empower us to become people who pursue Him and care for those around us.
I’m still learning. My life does not reflect a complete picture of Jesus. But I hope when people see this church, they see a little piece of the puzzle we are working to complete.
In this church and beyond its walls, we all matter. We all contribute to the puzzle. And I’m looking to the box cover with its perfect example, to find where I fit in this design.
Photo credit: Debi Johnson (from my church) © 2012
Author: Ally Siwajian