I didn’t mean to stay for three hours. And it was more than the rose leaf tea, more than the endless Super Why episodes she put on for my three-year-old. It was more than the familiar story of young love and marriage, or the moment we both confessed that our moms are our best friends and they are both moving away and we’re both brokenhearted. Each point of connection was nice, but none of them were the reason I couldn’t pry myself from her crushed velvet couch.
We bonded when my little boy and her little girl fell in love at preschool. Together, we giggled at their mutual adoration. When she introduced herself to me, I smiled and gave her my name, but in truth, I already knew who she was. I never forget a face. Many, many years ago, she attended my church, the one we just officially stopped attending. The one I need to stop calling “my” church. She was a little older than me, and traveled in a group of friends of friends and I doubt we ever had a conversation. But I knew exactly who she was.
And so when I found myself on her couch, sharing the story of our exodus from the church my husband has attended his entire life and that we were married in, I knew she could picture the long center aisle and rows of wooden pews. I knew that she was familiar with the names of staff members and the culture of the place. I didn’t have to explain much. It was such a relief.
And then I asked her to tell me the story of her church, the one she and her husband planted in our city. Even though I don’t even know if we’re really, truly ready to engage somewhere else, I had this feeling that I needed to know this story.
So I sat on her couch and she told me the tale of a place formed out of a need for community, a place where everyone is welcome and varying perspectives are embraced. And then she said “for people who love Jesus, but . . . ” and I swallowed hard.
I never needed to hunt for Him. It turns out He’s very comfortable in my real life.
You see, those are the words that have pounded in my brain for the better part of two years. I live in a blistering hot city in the middle of California. Our farmers feed much of the world, and the politics lean decidedly to the right. A church dots every corner, and the parking lots are filled every Sunday. It’s a great place to raise a family, but not a great place to have a crisis of faith.
I have felt a bit lost in my own city as I’ve weighed theologies I once would have called crazy, wondered just how big the table is, if it can really seat so many different hearts and souls. I have guarded my conversations and I have let only my husband see how deep my doubts and questions really run. So many times, I have wondered where I fit, how I can hold the tension of my shifting faith and my inability to walk away from Jesus.
I love Jesus, but . . .
Yes. That’s exactly it. How did she know?
And once again I’m reminded why I can’t, even on my most cynical day, walk away from Jesus. Because He does stuff like this. He takes a wandering woman and sets her on the couch of a friend, pours her a mug of tea, and fills the space with all the words that make her feel like He has actually heard her cries from the shower, read the words typed in frustration and anger, read her anxious thoughts. He does it with a fellow preschool mom in a city that I sometimes roll my eyes at, where I foolishly and arrogantly assume I’m on my own as I hunt for the Jesus I love, but . . .
We’ll try it. It may not be home, it may not be the spot we’ll land for good. But it doesn’t really matter because what I really needed that day was a seat on a couch and the connection of a friend, the hope that we’d find an actual community one of these days, a hint from heaven that He hears.
I never needed to hunt for Him. It turns out He’s very comfortable in the living room with two mommies and their questions. In other words, in my real life.
The scent of rose leaf tea lingered around me long after I finally rose from the couch, hugged this friend, and resumed my errands and chores and running around. It smelled like God with us.