Church Is A Road

A journal entry: Sunday, January 29th

Church is a road to a small town up north where it is easier to hear a still, small voice. Church is  a rental car, and we're halfway to Lake Geneva by 9:30 in the morning. Taylor drives and I sit in the passenger seat, watching as buildings fade into flat landscapes, all a blur of winter colors. 

When we arrive, we cheer at the sight of a body of water. We drive through the small downtown strip, lined with shops and restaurants with charming names. We laugh at the terrible slogan of a jewelry store: "We only look expensive!" 

Breakfast is always a good place to start. At  Joni's diner, everything is seafoam green and the blueberry pancakes are cheap. The server calls us "hun" and through the window I can see people walking around in sweatpants and tennis shoes. I feel perfectly acceptable - bedhead, faded jeans, oversized flannel. Taylor somehow manages to look chic in overalls. 

There is a comfort here that all small towns must share. It feels like our hometowns, like Montague where my grandfather was the mayor, and like a small town in Northern Michigan that I'm still trying to forget about because it's where my heart broke. Sometimes I feel it twinge whenever I end up in a place like this. 

But mostly, I feel at home. People are kind and unpretentious. My chai latte only costs three dollars and fifty cents at the local coffee shop, even with almond milk, and the owner offers us free pastries that she baked fresh this morning. She makes small talk from a neighboring table where she reads the news. 

We are not in the city. 

We make our way down to the water and the docks, keeping our balance on the ice.

A friend has texted me to ask why I wasn't at church, and if I'm okay. She's concerned, because I've been known to skip when I want to avoid people, when something doesn't feel right with me. 

I know that isn't how church is designed to be. We say things like "come as you are," but I still struggle with feeling like I should probably put on lipstick, like I'm not going to have anyone to sit with, like someone will take notice if I've gained a couple of pounds. My church is trendy and cool and it feels like people have recently discovered that I'm not. But lately I've been comforted by a conviction: church isn't just for Sunday mornings, and it isn't confined to a building.

I've always thought of church as a Christian community where we gather to hear what God has to say - through a pastor, through each other. We leave feeling refreshed and refilled, ready for the week ahead.

For now, it seems like Jesus is less concerned with whether or not I show up for church on Sunday and more concerned with whether or not I show up every other day. He says come as you are, but He also says go

"'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature'". - Mark 16:15

Last week I found myself around the same group of People Church girls nearly every day, except Sunday. There's something about being around them: I always feel inspired, fired up, more aware of my purpose. On Wednesday I found myself crammed in a living room with them, listening to the pastor speak about leadership. He reminded me that every day, I have an opportunity to show the love of Christ. "He has something for you every single day."

So tomorrow, church will be an office building. On Tuesday, a living room floor. A coffee shop on Wednesday and a small group on Thursday. It is the choice to gather in community instead of going home to my quiet bedroom. It's reaching out when I feel convicted to say something, when it would be easier to say nothing. It's the care with which I approach every coffee date, every car ride, every interaction. It's responding the way Jesus does: with open arms, patient listening, guiding wisdom, empathetic understanding, and unconditional love.

It's Sunday and Taylor and I are driving back to the city after stopping to buy plants at IKEA. We talk about life and I hear God speak through her words and through the road trip playlist in the background and through the silence around us as we pull over to take pictures in a field. I hear Him because I'm listening for Him, as attentively and expectantly in the passenger seat as I would in a church pew. I feel like today I've received the answers to questions I didn't even know how to articulate. It's the same way I feel leaving church: like I've found something. On our day trip to Lake Geneva, we found fresh air, fresh plants, and fresh perspective. I feel refreshed and refilled and ready for the week ahead.

I respond to my friend's text. "I'm alright - thank you for missing me. Today church was a road, and a rental car, and an icy lake, and a seafoam-green diner, and a friendly coffee shop, and an open field. Turns out Jesus is in Wisconsin, too." 

Bethany RoeslerComment