I remember the day my wife, Nancy, came home, late afternoon, walked straight to the kitchen where I was cooking dinner, and said, “Well, I thought I’d heard it all, but I got a new one today!”
“What’s that?” I said in a solicitous voice – as solicitous as one can be when you’ve got several pots on the stove at once.
While cooking, I was still pondering the leftover to-do list from my day. Still wondering how I was going to manage to get my old car in for repairs tomorrow morning. Still puzzled as to why the heating bill was so high this month. (Do I need to do more insulating? Do we need to keep the thermostat lower? Do I need to talk to the kids again about keeping the doors firmly closed?). Staring at the kitchen counter crowded with dirty dishes from breakfast and lunch and afternoon kids’ snacks, and my own generous pile of pots and pans from dinner preparation – and thinking, I’m so glad I don’t have to clean up tonight.
You ever have a conversation that starts something like that?
“Someone came in today to talk to me about joining the church,” Nancy replied, with an earnestness in her voice that told me she was oblivious to my distractions, all the while thinking to myself, “I hope this is a short story.”
Fortunately, Nancy’s stories are almost always interesting.
“Well, you know, I gave her my standard grilling,” she explained. “Why do you want to join this church? And she said the most amazing thing.”
I knew that was my cue for prompting, so without missing a beat I turned off one burner, turned on another, stirring the gravy all the while, wondering to myself “Where did that pepper mill go?” but also managed to ask, “What did she say?”
“This woman said she wanted to join because she wanted to learn how to love, and she thinks our church is the place she can learn that,” Nancy said. “In all my life, I’ve never heard that.
“Most people talk about what the church can do for them, how the church can meet their needs, give them all the love they deserve, be a place of support, find new friends, offer programs for their children. Whatever. You know, the whole services-rendered-for-offerings-paid thing.
“I about fell out of my chair,” she said. “Someone who actually wants to put her hands on the plow.”
“Whoa!” I warbled, eyebrows cocked, mouth agape. And nearly burned the gravy.
Curator of prayerandpolitiks.org, an online journal at the intersection of spiritual formation and prophetic action, and author of, most recently, In the Land of the Willing: Litanies, Prayers, Poems, and Benedictions. He was the founding director of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and founding co-pastor of Circle of Mercy Congregation in Asheville, North Carolina.