Why I’m “leaving the church” and going out
It just might have been the oddest offer of hospitality I’d ever heard. “I’m gonna go roll a joint. Anybody want one?” And he disappeared into the night.
As a formerly religious, grain-fed, Midwestern girl raised on hymns, acapella, and revival meetin’s, I’m so glad to say I didn’t bat an eye. They’d been standing there, circled around, entertaining us all with hilarious stories as the hour grew late and then later.
Tales of a snowmobile named Doug in honor of the fella they’d gotten it from. Of hair-raising dashes down mountain slopes, cutting deals with the office on the fly. By phone.
Of grouse hunting, and travel. Of crazy-wild stunts. Of drinking with their buddies and girls. Life in the fast lane, 100 mph. And all of this, mind you, with verbiage that would’ve gotten our mouths scrubbed with Ivory soap and a wire brush.
Mostly, we listened. And laughed. And answered, and they laughed, and we took it all in, these colorful souls with their astonishing stories and vastly different lives.
And I *saw* them.
Just like I *saw* a young man named Marcellus. And one, too, named Hector in the place where coffee’s a verb.
Just like I *saw* a woman named Helene, she of the scars and ill health and the hot, fighting spirit. Who’d been saddled with a colostomy bag, skin and bones. Who’d turned and faced the Elites at a country club whispering behind her very back, “She’s anorexic,” and she’d lifted her shirt, showed that bag.
“This,” she’d said, “is what’s wrong with me.” (“You didn’t!” said her husband when she told him the tale, and she’d said, “Hell, yes, I did!” And hearing it, I’d wanted to cheer, shout out loud.)
That day, she’d looked at me, finally, and said, “Tell me your story. I do want to know.” So I’d told her about Papa and His love. And she’d melted. Then, just as she walked out the door, I’d said this: “All of that love and fatherhood He has for me? He has alllll of it for you as well.” And she was gone.
Just like I *saw* the young men behind me, buying booze, and I’d turned. I had mothered them as I would have my own son, him once plundered by booze, and a curly-haired giant beside me had listened. Then, bending over, he’d hugged me. “Thank you,” he’d said. “Thank you.”
Just like I *saw* the kind, wrinkled woman at the party store when I’d gone for just one can of beer (for a recipe, not that it matters). Out of change, she had handed me hers. Papa’s heart beating, right there in that store. And I had melted, and then prayed as I left.
But back to those hard-living men and their girls, telling stories. I just sat and I pondered, and I heard all their words. And finally, I opened my mouth and said this, “Tell me about your mothers.” They stopped, unsure. “I have four boys, and I’m just wondering about your own mothers.”
I talked to the one as he sipped on his drink. He’d been bitten by a dog on the hand. So I mothered him. “I type these reports all the time. You need to watch it. If it gets warm or red…” And he’d listened.
I can’t get them off of my mind. For these people I’ve met in my ordinary life are a microcosm of our great, wide, teeming planet. All of them souls for whom Jesus came. All of them, souls that He loves.
What strikes me like lightning is this; that not one of them–not one!–have I met at my church. And I never would meet them there, either.
We have to leave the church, to get out. To break out of the so-called Holy Huddle. It’s time.
If light just shines upon light, you can’t see it. Not like you can in the dark where it’s needed.
A well that’s forever shut up, it sours. Its waters grow horrid and stale. Slime grows. We’re not created to be cisterns, but channels, and those channels should cover the earth. Yes, they should.
“Whoever believes in Me,” Jesus said, “rivers of living water will flow from within them (Jn. 7:38).”
These rivers are meant to flow out, not stay in. Oh, I might not be big, and I might just be one, but this Curly-Headed Girl’s getting out. Out of the church and into the world where Papa’s treasures are waiting. Longing for love, needing Light.
Here I go. You can come, too.