I am spending this Labor Day laboring away in a Starbucks like the average homeless person, because my living quarters are without wifi and this blog has been singing sweetly to me of neglect and disdain since my last post.
I was always taught not to begin a writing with a long sentence. Sometimes I was a bad student, but mostly it's impossible to separate thoughts my that way. It's like cutting the legs off of a sentence and stitching them onto the next clause's head while blindfolded.
Having a hard time unseeing that mental image.
Silly word pictures aside, in my last post I enumerated all the various "amenities" (if you will) that I felt like I absolutely needed to survive when I moved to Seattle. A few of them are the basic things, like a roof to sleep under and a job so I can afford to keep sleeping under that roof. Even when I can't afford sleeping under that roof, it's a nice feeling anyways. Roofs in Seattle are expensive, it turns out.
Anyways, one of the things on my list (and in all probability the most important) was finding a good church home. Be warned. I sense a slight historical digression brewing at the edge of my fingertips.
I was raised in the Church of Christ. Don't ask me what that means because denominations in the church have become about as cluttered as a schizophrenic's art portfolio. I was a preacher's kid, and we believed in the Trinity, baptism, and generally not sacrificing humans and whatnot. I'm not trying to trivialize my beliefs here, I'm merely telling you what the words said on the outside of the churches I went to growing up.
So yes, I was a Church of Christer growing up. Operative word = 'was', but don't jump to any conclusions. It holds merit today.
I went to a Church of Christ pretty much wherever we moved, which was quite a few times. When I got old enough to understand the significance behind the oh-so-wonderful grape juice rations and that the words inscribed outside the churches I frequented meant we typically were agreeing to adhere to a certain set of beliefs, I realized that community was an essential thing. I was always involved in some kind of youth group and there were some times when my siblings and I virtually were the youth group, but there was always a group of sorts wherever I went. Even when I grew up a little and actually worked in the church and realized most of the clucking in our congregation came from whether or not the noises a guitar made were holy noises or satanic ones, I always had community; a group of like-minded and similarly-aged individuals I could spend time with.
So when I left California in 2008 to transfer to Abilene Christian University, did I scamper out to the nearest Rent-A-Church Center and sign up for a membership class?
I recall sleeping a lot that first semester on Sunday. Also football, late lunches, and the smell of my roommate's feet. Truth be told, I sort of half-heartedly attended a college service at a church right by the school with some of my friends, mainly because it was close and convenient. I also visited the campus church aka Old People R Us, complete with stadium seating and another church where they performed weird rituals on stage while I sat in the front row crying on the the inside because I hadn't watched enough television to understand what the devil was going on.
What the devil indeed. Churches, never have stadium seating. I feel like I'm at the world's slowest baseball game, except everybody wins and the 7th inning stretch is completely ignored. I need closure, CATER TO ME.
What a thought. A church that should cater to me? For the sake of brevity, I will merely say that it took me nearly 3 years to find a community of believers in Abilene that I consistently felt was necessary to meet with for my spiritual survival. News flash: it wasn't a church of Christ either. I still don't really know what it was, but it worked for me where I was at.
Sometimes "working for me where I'm at" doesn't work when you don't know where are you are in more than one sense of the word. Knowing I was heading for the Land of the Unchurched and Secular, I was fortunate enough to have exactly 2 friends in the Seattle area and one of them and her fiance were regulars of a Calvary Chapel in Mountlake Terrace. Pretty much all I knew about Calvary Chapels was that they had that bird picture on the outside of their buildings that reminded me of Twitter and pomegranates (don't ask)...and that's pretty much it. I think I could have counted the number of times I had been to a Calvary Chapel on one half of one pinky at that point in my life.
My friend and her fiance pretty much pulled me right into the church and the group of people surrounding it with very little fanfare and no resistance on my side. I rolled into Seattle on a Tuesday (June 6th) and was attending the college service the following Sunday.
I haven't missed one since.
To be frank, there were a few times I almost walked away from the church. Mainly for selfish reasons because they almost always are concerning these things. The preacher was too boring. The worship was stale as a forgotten imitation brand Oreo (which oddly enough gets squishy as it gets older. Squishy Worship is my new band name). THEY READ EVERY VERSE IN A PASSAGE WHEN BASING A SERMON OFF OF IT. None of this skipping around, paraphrasing, censoring, or jumping from book to book like a possessed tree frog. Nope. They pick a passage and read the whole dang thing through. And we have been going though Samuel and Chronicles so you know, fun stuff and all that noise.
All of these petty things kept clawing at my attention until I came to the realization that the community at this church was nearly drowning me. Now, it's been no Texas love affair where you drop the name of a mutual friend and BOOM some deacon named Ross is inviting you over for BBQ every Sunday with his wife, 6 kids and 3 St. Bernards, but people were really genuine. Imagine that! Not what I expected from my first church-going experience in the Jet City.
So I was going every evening and I still do. I visited a small group. I signed up to help teach kids classes. I went to the 4th of July picnic. Even though I never went back to the small group, wasn't able to teach because I hadn't been there long enough, and spent more time being a ghost than a human at the picnic, the pace of all this was unprecedented especially considering how long it took me to find that in Texas.
This is how I ended up at Calvary Chapel Mountlake Terrace: with virtually no choice. Sometimes that's the best way to do it because since then I've had the choice to leave several times but there is something is keeping me there, and I will be the first to tell you it's not the free meals they give every Sunday.
It's the people.
The devoid, the crooked, the smoldering ruins of colliding worlds walking around on shaking legs, extending a hand to me, asking me for my name and then not forgetting it. That's what I need from a church right now more than anything, not some condemnation about wearing a hat during prayer or a subscription to a 13 week study on the book of Numbers. I need people, and people I've found.
That is how it happened, and is still happening. Next time I'll tell you a little more about the type of characters that constitute the church and how I've found myself with friends in this corner of the nation, through very little work on my part.
Lastly, if I were to ever get lost in a forest, I would hope that it would be in a red forest. No other color seduces me so.