When You Don’t Fit In At Church
On Sunday mornings, I wake up early, kiss my still sleeping husband good-bye, and drive nearly an hour to my church in one of the more rural parts of West Virginia. I park my van, covered in HRC and Obama and Strong Bad bumper stickers in a sea of conservative pickup trucks. I wear an Arrested Development t-shirt among a throng of Christian t-shirts.
I should not fit in.
According to a number of demographics, I am nothing like a lot of these people. It would be all too easy for me to focus on our differences. There are plenty, and if I’m being perfectly honest, some of them matter to me. I care about things like LGBT equality and access to birth control. I’m pretty iffy about hell. I’m far more likely to reach for John 3:17 as a life verse instead of John 3:16.
And yet this is my home. The owner of a local bed and breakfast who brings in flowers every Sunday never fails to give me a hug. The Christian school teacher asks me how things are going with my book writing. The man who helps run the children’s archery program stops me to let me know that he’s praying for the women at Beginning of Life with me. The pastor’s wife calls me beautiful and the pastor always thanks me for being a part of the family.
I don’t fit in, but I am loved.
And because I am loved, it is much easier for me to reciprocate that love. I am accepted, so it becomes easier for me to accept. I am honored, so it is my desire to return honor.
I know that there are numerous discussions about people leaving the Church. There are so many valid reasons and I have encountered a number of them in my own experiences with the church, but most of them boil down to the idea that there is some right way to do church. We think that there is a magic formula that we can put together and it will make this whole Christianity thing come together for everyone. More political involvement! More contemporary music! More focus on ritual! More skinny jeans! More candles! More focus on orthodoxy! We make our lists and we assume that if we could just find that sweet spot, people would stay.
There is no sweet spot. There is no right way. There is no magic formula.
But there I don’t think that means all is lost. There is looking at someone you don’t understand and saying, “Tell me your story,” and then listening. There is thanking the person who made coffee for showing up an hour before the service started to get the machines running. There is going out of your way to pass the peace to someone who has a different bumper sticker on their car than you have on yours.
There is love.
And when we love like Jesus tells us to love, fitting in isn’t really a concern, because love makes all kinds of room for everyone.