I worry about what happens when we build a house for God.
...Do we build God a house so that we can choose when to go see God? Do we build God a house in lieu of having God stay at ours?
What happens to the rest of the world when we build four walls—even four gorgeous walls—cap them with a steepled roof, and designate that the House of God?
What happens to the people who never show up in our houses of God?
- BARBARA BROWN TAYLOR, An Altar in the World
Here is the church
Here is the steeple
Open the door
And see all the people
But what about when there are no doors?
Where are the people?
Where can God live?
It’s Saturday morning. It’s cold.
But it’s the first Saturday of the month and that means Outdoor Church behind Manna House. A gathering for those who believe (and maybe don’t but want to) who don’t feel comfortable and/or welcome inside the “houses of worship” sprinkled throughout the city.
I can’t say I know how they feel. I’ve generally felt welcome wherever I’ve visited.
But then again, I can play the part. Clean clothes. Showered body. Arrival in a heated SUV.
These folks mainly come by foot. Maybe with alcohol on their breath. Many with cigarettes in their pockets.
(Shouldn’t they give those up?
Their lives would be better if they did,
but aren’t there things I need to give up, too?
God can’t wait on us to get it all together.
He kicks down the door, Come! Just as you are.)
And today, once again (almost always?), I question my part.
I stand in the bedroom, after putting on three layers of shirts and a couple pairs of socks, and ask Jeff, “Tell me again why I’m going?”
I’ve caught him at a weak moment, too. The pull to spend the day on our personal projects at home is strong this morning for both of us.
But he conquers his and answers, “Because there’s somebody there you can love on.”
I buy it. I get in the car. We drive into town.
My 2013 One Word is Jesus. My January focus is “The practice of waking up to God.” So I want to wake up to Jesus in Outdoor Church this morning. I want to be Jesus in Outdoor Church to those who need to see him.
But when we get there, we’re alone.
No volunteers’ cars in the parking lot preparing a hot meal for the hungry after the service. No chairs set up outside for the guests. No guitars set up for the worship band.
This is why I came? For nothing?
Where is this person I was supposed to love on?
But does God let anything happen for nothing? I know “no.” Maybe he knew I needed a push out the door so I wouldn’t mourn all day that Jenna went back to Auburn that morning. Maybe he knew I needed to prepare my heart to serve even if there would be no one there to serve.
Maybe, just maybe, he wanted me to pleased with his presence alone, to “have church” with him, to know he is enough.
To realize he is the one I’m to love on.
So Jeff and I drive on. Drop a few books off at the library. Meander the back roads home. Take off all the extra layers.
And feel satisfied.
The Outdoor Church will gather again another day. But this waking up to God, discovering yourself in his house—it can happen anytime, anywhere. Without doors, without steeples. And sometimes even without people.
Where is God’s house?
And it’s full.
* * *
Where have you seen God lately?