A couple that moves across country with two children to a small apartment in a world where they know no one, admitting that loneliness kills. A different young couple in the first month of their marriage, checking out a church because they saw a sign on the road. A third young couple, unmarried, with a new child, the parents both admitting to and fighting addictions. A guitar player who has played in years, fighting to get his life back after a long struggle against meth. A woman with AIDS who smiles and talks to me about a film we both adore, as well as her struggle to find the housing she needs. A second man with AIDS who eats at my house every Sunday, eats like there is no tomorrow, and shuffles off at the end our life groups’ couple of hours together, headed for his weekly movie outing with his late-blooming Christ-following father. An artist who harbors various bitternesses about church of years past, but who graces us with his work and his joyful comedy and cynicism. A man sitting in my living room, quietly ruminating over the possibility of finding new meaning in his painting. A young filmmaker and his crew of brooding creatives working together to explore what love means, and what might happen if you fell in love with a pixie. Two women who meet on a business trip in Seattle and stumble into church looking for a service and landing in the middle of a church calling the Holy Spirit to come. The older woman who I adore who urges me to keep going, and the other older woman who brings me newspaper articles and tells me coffee is killing me, and to go get a concoction of something I can’t remember to replace what the coffee is robbing me of.

Churches aren’t buildings. They are collections of people. Great, real people who amble into a big box on a given Sunday hoping for something, wanting something, wanting magic, maybe, for the Spirit to zap them with something maybe, or maybe they just hope for a kind word, a touch of a compassionate look, a chance to plan a get-together later in the week, a cup of tea or coffee with the person who is their lifeline, without whom their lives might go plunging off a cliff of despair. Maybe they want to be left alone so they can meet with God, drag their shame to Him alone, not wanting anybody else to see it. And to be able to speak a word that says there is somewhere in the universe, in that maelstrom of reality both seen and unseen, somewhere out there is a being that loves beyond our imaginative capacity…what sheer joy, madness, difficulty, and grace.  But they sit there, and I can see it cross their faces so often, these questions that haunt them: how can I be loved? How is it possible after all of this, all the muck I’ve made of things, all the wounds and blood lying in the wake of who and what I’ve been? How is it possible that I’m loved, after all…. Is there forgiveness of my wreck of a time?  Redemption?  Life, indeed?

I love these people.

I love the God who chases them.

Come be a part…

2 Replies to “People”

  1. And therein, Jeff, lies the beauty we so long to capture in words.

    In that collection of people, of which we are a part. In that compassionate touch, or kind look. In the life-line and the vulnerability. In the cup of coffee, the sharing. In the healing that comes from confession and forgiving. In the love that is beyond our imaginative capacity.

    There it lies, awaiting discovery, longing to be grasped, understood, put in motion. Beauty awaits us. May we not disappoint.

    Dive deeply.

  2. I am too often disappointed by those who have come to the church on Sunday because it is What They Do, who circle around in packs of familiarity because it is Who They Know, who sit through the service with somnombulistic nods and blank-faced stares and muted voices because that is How They Are, then circle around in their homogeneous groups again for a brief time before racing off to their overscheduled Day of Rest, leaving the cares and burdens of the world piled on the shoulders of the broken few who sit awaiting comfort. There is perhaps more of a fear of the Unknown here than in the West, more of a dread that familiarity with strangers will breed contempt – or perhaps simply a fear of being rejected by the rejected. Either way, I find it disheartening that those most open to learning and sharing and comforting and forgiving are under the age of twelve.

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