Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Let Us Long (and Keep Trying)

You know that person in your church who refuses to stop being a newcomer, no matter how long it has been? The one you've been kind and warm and welcoming to over and over again? The one you've invited to bible study and to coffee and who still feels stiff and distant and like a foreigner and a sojourner in your community? The one you've probably been frustrated with for her refusal to just fit in and feel at home already?

I get her.

I've been going to Mass in Spanish for nearly three years. I understand the readings and the homily now. I can rattle the responses smoothly across my tongue and keep up with everyone else. I know when they kneel and when they stand (it's different).

I am no longer new at this.

I walk into our church and it is familiar. People smile and hug us. They ask how we have been. We know them. They have had us for coffee or shaken our hands in the streets or sold us our tomatoes.

I am not a stranger here.

But I am a foreigner. And it still feels foreign to me. And despite all that I said above, I still struggle to feel part of the community of the Church. I feel lost and lonely in our crowded Church on a Sunday. And I long for the place that feels like home.

I long for friends who know my story, my history. Not only familiar faces in the pews, but the faces of people who KNOW me. I long for the songs I like to sing and the smell of my favorite incense and the way "they" do it.

I long for the Church that felt like home. Even though it was never actually home and hasn't been for a long time. 

And I don't mean that I am not grateful for all the ways people have tried to welcome and include us and make us feel as home. I am. I so am. But I don't. I don't feel at home yet and I don't know when I will. And I need them to be patient with me.

And let me long. For all the things mentioned above and the deeper spiritual context for them all.

And then I need them to keep trying. Because I don't mean to be stuck here and I too hope for the day it "clicks" and I suddenly blend in and feel like I belong. And you never know just which thousandth smile will do the trick.

So, if you are the one trying so hard to make those of us still sitting on the fringes of your Church feel welcome and at home here, can I ask you a huge favor?

Will you let us long for what we miss? Not hurry us into a home we are not ready to claim just yet?

But will you keep trying? And know we appreciate it and we are working on it?

Thank you.

That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home. (Ephesians 2: 19-22 MSG)

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