Clarksville, TN – I started attending church in the 80’s. I was 12, and very intimidated by the church scene. All the kids knew stuff. They knew about people from the Bible. They had verses memorized. They had always been in church.
I felt like a deviant weirdo misfit on a weekly basis. I didn’t hate church, but I can’t say that I liked it.
Well except on potluck days. Then I loved church.
It wasn’t just the creamy green bean casserole with fried crunchy onions on top. It wasn’t the potluck itself. What I really liked was not something you’d think a 12 year old would even care about.
I liked the old people.
I liked having “old people” (which was probably everyone over 25 back then) ask me about my favorite subject, ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up and talk about their recipe for meatballs or cheese log. I liked being surrounded by aged Tupperware with names written on masking tape and platters that had been in someone’s family for 40 years. But mostly, I liked the feeling of connection that only happens when several generations of people hang out together.
I got married when I was 21. My church at the time was very traditional. Occasionally someone would host a get together for all of the young married couples. We would eat hot dogs and hang out. And I still felt a little weird. It was fun but not amazing.
But every once in a while, an older married couple hosted a dinner at their house for the “youngins”. That was by far my favorite thing to do. I enjoyed being doted on by people with white hair, and eating off of china dishes and using crystal salt-n-pepper shakers. It wasn’t just because it was “fancy” but it was because it contrasted my normal, and it gave me hope for my future.
Being married is hard, and having role models is important. But whether we are married or single, with kids or without, in college or working, we all need people to check on us, love on us, and pour into our lives.
In my mid 20’s I pretty much left church altogether. In my 30’s, I came back with renewed commitment. But I am still missing something: a person in my church with more life experience than me to lift me up and check on me. And while I am there in a supportive way for a lot of ladies, I can’t say that I am intentionally pouring into anyone.
Usually this is called discipleship, or mentoring. But it’s also called friendship.
If all of our friends are just like us, we might risk lacking knowledge and the opportunity for constructive criticism. We will not grow or develop as well. We will not be as useful to the world because will have left too much potential on the table.
I need their humor, their experience, their perspective on life and their example. I want their friendship, encouragement and hugs. I want to grow from their knowledge and gain hope from their stories. I want to remember that life is not fair or easy but that it’s worth it. I want to see a life of tragedy and loss, combined with beauty and joy that that reminds me that God can make good of anything.
And if truth be told, I want that recipe for cheese log or for someone named Hazel to bake me a pineapple upside down cake. Don’t worry, I’ll return your Tupperware. Just put your name on it.
And when I return it, we can have coffee and we can talk about life, and we can grow from each other.
This is what I want from church. Cake and friendship. Is that too much to ask for?