*This is not a Christian blog; it is a blog about my life and I go to church.
Have you ever felt like you absolutely have to say something? Like you really might regret saying something but you will also regret not saying it, if you stay silent?
I was sitting in Sunday school today with my husband and the topic of the lesson was “The Great Commission.” This is a passage about spreading the gospel to the world. The lesson began with introspection about why some people may not feel qualified to do this; why some of them feel like they are not good enough. A flood of memories hit me like a ton of bricks and my heart beat in my throat because I knew I was getting ready to not “fit in with the Jones'”. I said, “I think that we forget that we are called to love everyone.” I threw out a proposal: “I can get people in this door but I don’t know if they will be accepted or ran off.” I also threw out a situation: “What would happen if a single mother showed up with pink hair, tattoos, and, maybe, identified as homosexual.” Some people began to get a little bit defensive and went from “I am not worthy/good enough” to “I am on a higher level than that person” and “It would be really hard to talk to that person.” I replied that there is always something that someone has in common with another person, you just have to be willing to find it. One person hinted that I could bring that person but they would probably not be open anyway…maybe they should not be in church. Some people were very kind and stood up for that person. It kind of took over the class discussion (I kind of felt bad about this because it takes a long time to plan a lesson).
…One very bubbly person said that she would be so friendly that she hoped that she would not scare her away and that I should bring her…
My heart was in my throat again and I replied that that person was myself, other than the homosexual part, but I added it because it was relevant. I told my story: When I went back to my mother’s church, after many years, I was a single mom of four, sometimes wild, children. I had blonde and black hair, several piercings, and tattoos. I was pretty much alone in a crowd and an outcast among so many people that I grew up around; others just looked at me and hoped or knew that they would not have a reason to speak to me. I really grew to hate small talk; nobody really cared about how my day was or how the kids were, they just felt better about themselves if they gave me two minutes of their day. Like I told the person who commented that they would have nothing in common with “that girl”, there is always something that you can find in common with another person. I mentioned that now that I am married and look “normal” (whatever that is), people think that I am new (I have been around the church, since 8th grade).
I worked so hard to be accepted, to be seen as successful, more than I was. Three college degrees later, I know that I am no better than any other human being. I know that God did not stutter when he told us to love our neighbors… there are no clauses about how “thy neighbor” should look, or behave, or that they should be straight. I would not want to be judged the way that people have judged me. I believe that the scriptures say to “judge not” and “to love our neighbor”… maybe I should say that “your neighbor” is not just your neighbor in your suburban neighborhood, who is easy to relate to. At work, I’ve rolled up my sleeves or taken off my jacket, when I have had meetings with parents who may think that I am anything more than I am. At church, I have learned to cover up and to try to fit in with “the Jones'”.
Contrary to what the person said about being ready to be in church, I was there. (I have a very persistent mother.) I wanted to be a part of something but everyone took me at face value. I sat alone, I ate alone or with my mom, I dated a guy, once, but he told me that I was not godly enough and he had a reputation (I think he was just a regular ol’ jerk who needed an excuse). I am very gritty but I would think that other people would have taken the hint and left.
The moral of the story is that it is sexy to reach out to people who are across the boarder or the ocean, and that is a noble thing to do… It is not so sexy to reach out to people who are in the “bad parts of town” or to those who may require help (who has time for that right?). Some people who will go to places like Africa or Cambodia will not go to north Tulsa. Some people will play the “I’m Not Worthy Game” until you put someone in front of them that makes them play the “Holier than Thou” game, even if that person would eat their words with a spoon.
I am thankful for the people who expressed gratitude and told their stories, because I seldom speak in crowds, and I usually avoid my past like the plague.