As I was thinking this week about what it means to grow and still choose the same thing all over again - like choosing whether Christ is still important to you or how you choose to approach your faith - I found myself pulling into the parking lot at church on Sunday morning right behind someone who, without the church, I never would have met.
And then, I realized that my church is literally full of persons who, without the church, I never would have met. These are virtual strangers that I am doing life with, who are doing life with me, and yet, if we had run into each other one random day at the grocery store, this wouldn't be our story. How many times in my life did I walk right past these persons, these very persons, without a second thought before I knew who they were? How many times did they walk past me?
Now, here we are, pulling into the parking lot of a place called home for us, and they aren't strangers; they're family. I can't imagine doing life without them.
Which is, of course, a true statement and a sad truth, as well, because we all know how churches work in this age. We know how easy it is to go church hopping, and we can all think of persons who have left our community and gone elsewhere - or persons we have left behind when we have gone elsewhere. I've written about this before, how there's a sadness and a grief to it, how there's a hole ripped out of the middle of our faith when someone we've entangled our life with decides not to show up anymore.
But what I was thinking about this particular day is that every week, these are the persons I choose to do life with, just by showing up. And these persons choose to do life with me, just by showing up. We choose each other. We don't have to; we could go anywhere to worship. But we choose to worship with one another. We choose to walk into a place we know and greet persons we know and sing and lift our hands and bow our heads with one another. When I leave my house on Sunday morning to go to church, I drive past a dozen churches on my way to do life with the persons I am choosing again this week.
That means something.
We have talked a lot about what the church is in the past few months, especially when we haven't been able to meet together the way that we always have. We have talked about what it means to be a people of God and a community and the kinds of persons who love one another. We have talked about staying connected, even when we have to be apart, and that's what this is about - it's about choosing community again and again and again, even as we grow. Even as we grow together.
Too often, we think that the church is the building. Or it's the pastor or the leadership. Or it's the programs. Or it's the special events. Or it's the headquarters for a community service project. Or it's the launch pad for outreach. Or whatever. But the truth is that the church is the community. It's the people. It's the persons who choose each other every week and declare there is something fundamentally good and holy about doing so. Persons who keep choosing those who, without the church, they probably never would have come to know.
I pulled into the parking lot behind this husband and wife, and I thought how strange it was that even the three of us were the kind of persons doing life together. How unlikely a friendship we have. It's a friendship that doesn't make a lot of sense in the eyes of the world, but it makes perfect sense in a place like this. And we keep choosing it, all of three of us. And we have for twenty years. Even as we grow, we keep choosing to grow together.
That's really cool.