Going to Church
This summer Gabe received a Word from the Lord.
Before I go on, I am not sure where you, dear reader, are on this sort of thing. Because in my younger years I would have looked at you over the top of my “skeptic” glasses, lifted my nose a little higher and said, “Hmm. I see.”
But I am older and wiser now, so I simply realize how much I actually do not know or understand.
And even though I don’t completely understand it, sometimes, y’all, God gives us a Word.
So Gabe was driving around our small Kentucky town when he felt a prompting to turn left. And then right. And then left. This was leading him away from the old historic homes. Away from the middle class cul-va-sacs. As literature would say, he was now driving “on the other side of the tracks.” He finally stopped at a small Baptist church with a sign outside that said, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind.” And that was the end of the Holy Spirit GPS.
But the sign and the church and the community stuck with him.
Fast forward to Saturday. Gabe walks in and says “I think we are suppose to go to that church.”
In my holy and submissive wife-y way…I stared at him like he had lost his mind.
Then he says “Just pray about it.”
To which I prayed, “Jesus, please do not send my husband any more Words that have to involve me.” Kidding!
I did pray, and it was clear the Lord wanted us to visit the next morning.
If you will allow me, this post is about to get very real and it may not at times be completely politically correct and not because I’m trying to, but because sometimes I honestly do not know or understand what things might be offensive. It is my fear that I will unknowingly offend someone. And I can’t go on without saying I’m sorry if that is the case and please help me, Jesus, because I love all people, red, yellow, black, and white.
A White Girl’s Thoughts BEFORE She Visits Black Church for the First Time: I am so white. So embarrassingly white. And I have no rhythm! What if they clap?! Look at all of this blonde hair I’m braiding. Why couldn’t any of us have darker hair? What if we show up and do something wrong? What if we make people feel uncomfortable?
We show up Sunday morning in our best church clothes (Gabe apparently Googled “white family attending black church for the first time.” And he told us we needed to look our best. No mega-church ripped jeans and untucked tees here!) We were obviously a bit early, as there were only 4 or 5 other people inside. Gabe had also mentioned that there might be an usher to show us where to sit, that way we didn’t sit in “Grandma’s seat” and make her upset. This church apparently has not read that Google piece of advice, because we walk in and there is no usher. We stand in the back for a few seconds, wondering if we need to wait for an escort. But the 4 or 5 people there don’t even see us yet. So we slip in to the 2nd pew from the back. Hopefully back pew Grandmas are a little more forgiving.
And that is when all eyes turned to us.
Let me pause a moment to say, we are naturally a family that attracts a lot of attention. If I had a dollar for every time someone said, “Four girls!” followed by either “Poor Dad!” or “Trying for a boy next?” or “That’s a lot of weddings!”…then I would be writing this blog from my yacht. So attracting attention I am used to.
Also, we have visited a lot of churches. We had no idea it would take so long to find our home church when we moved, and the byproduct of this was lots of “first time” visits to various churches. You would think with our “attention grabbing” family and lots of first time church visits, we would have shook many a hands and introduced ourselves numerous times. You would be wrong.
Many churches we walked in and out and no one said a word to us. A few, the pastor introduced himself and shook our hand. Maybe a few during the announcement guy’s “turn to the person next to you and shake a hand.
But the overall “church visitation” vibe left us feeling cold.
Until this day.
Those eyes turned to us and I waited. Waited to see. Were we welcome here? Honestly, it was the same question I asked at every church we ever attended.
The first man walked over, introduced himself, and shook Gabe’s hand. He walked over and shook mine. Then he shook the hand of all four of my daughters.
The next man walked over, shook Gabe’s hand and talked to him for a bit.
The lady a few pews up turned and waved and mouthed “Good morning!” And this went on and on and on.
Basically, it was the friendliest church we have ever attended. All of my worry about being uncomfortable or makings others feel so, seemed so silly now.
Then church began.
You have not been to church until you have been to black church.
The music. I can’t wait for heaven. It is going to sound like this. Excuse the bad pun, but, the music had SOUL.
I was perhaps correct in worrying about my lack of rhythm, because when they started singing, you could not HELP but clap and nod and sway along. The crazy part is, I didn’t care if I was off. When I get to heaven, I’ll ask Jesus if I can have some rhythm.
And then they asked if there were any visitors and would they please stand and SAY A WORD…..
And guess where everyone turned?
Now you need to know, Gabe does not say many words to many people. He especially doesn’t say words in front of crowds of people.
We stood up.
I shuffled my feet and looked very busy fixing Makenna’s hair because, ya’ll…I’m awkward!
And just as cool as could be, Gabe spoke up nice and loud and told them our names and where we lived and went to church and then he said “From time to time we enjoy visiting other churches to see what God is doing and how He is moving here.”
And everyone started saying “Amen! Amen!”
I hope my mouth did not hang open in awe.
As the last song was closing out the service, an older woman sitting behind us reached forward and tapped my shoulder. She wanted to tell me thanks for visiting and worshipping with them today. I grabbed her hand, looked her in the eyes and said, “You blessed me today.”
I have no idea why we were suppose to go to that church that Sunday morning. Was it to teach our children? We desperately want our children to see all people as God’s beautiful creation, loved by Him, and therefore, loved by us. Perhaps it was to help me get over the nervousness I feel that I might mess up.
All I know is that this white family walked into black church for the first time and felt so loved and welcomed and encouraged and close to heaven that we hope and pray this will not be our last.