Sitting in church this morning seemed like a normal Sunday…but, things changed when the pastor asked us to turn around and greet those around us. My husband, Tim, had decided to step out of our comfort zone and sit in a different section that morning. We’ve gone to the same church for 15 years and always sat in our “assigned seats.” Ok, they are not assigned, but we sit in them enough that they seem like assigned seats. I don’t like change unless I instigate the change. But, alas, here I was sitting in a group of people that I don’t normally sit with on Sunday morning. And now I was having to turn around and greet them AND shake their hands. Seems like an easy enough task, right? What happened next kind of surprised me, though.
The gentleman sitting behind us was very quiet. I didn’t recognize him and when I said hello and went to shake his hand he seemed rather timid. His handshake matched his demeanor and was soft and almost afraid…if you can call a handshake afraid. I had to ask myself what made this young man so timid? What has happened to him in his lifetime that seems to have rather sucked the exuberance out of him and kept him introspective while others around him seemed happy and carefree—excited to see one another.
While I chewed on these thoughts my mind jumped to another individual who wasn’t at church that morning. Probably a bad experience at church years ago was keeping him away. A person who was missing out on spending time with family and friends. All because of the past. But we cannot escape the past. Maybe the two individuals weren’t all that different? Perhaps they’d both had bad experiences at church but one decided to step out in faith and give the people another chance?
What about those exuberant people sitting around me. Are they all just happy as larks or have they learned to put their masks on with their Sunday best and put their best effort forward on making sure everyone at church thinks all is well in their lives. I’m the kind of person that wears her heart on my sleeve. If I’m having a bad day, you know it! But it took me many years to realized that that mask I hide behind was really only hurting me. It hindered others being able to come along side me and help me get better. Getting better doesn’t mean I get happy—it just means that I’ve learned not to hide how I’m really feeling and I deal with it.
Overall, I think there are maybe four kinds of people then… Those who show up at church on Sunday mornings that have an unpleasant history but they’re willing to give God another try. There are those who refuse to leave the past behind and decide they’re better off without all those hypocrites that say they love God but don’t live like it every day of the week. Those who come to keep the pews warm on Sunday mornings. They don’t know why they come; maybe it’s because it’s a cultural thing. Maybe it’s because they’re afraid of what people might say if they don’t come. And finally there are those of us that come because we know we are messed up and desperately need God. We’ve long gotten past the place where we care what others think about us (at least most of the time). We know that we are hypocrites on a daily basis because we are human—we say one thing and do another.
Maybe there’s even a 5th group—the group that is somewhere in between all of these…just not sure what to think about God and all this religion stuff. Or even the person that doesn’t fit into one of the categories. Then again, God doesn’t fit into a one size fits all package…why should I expect His creation to do so?
So, next time you are sitting in church (if you attend) or contemplating attending, remember that everyone is messed up, insecure and overall, human. Take a chance on God and on His children, a leap of faith as it may. You never know—it could be a life changing experience for you as today was for me.