I wake up on Sunday morning and decide that I’m going to do it; I’m going to go to a new church. So I get ready, hop in my car and find the place. I walk in to the church, it’s fairly large and the service has just begun. There are people everywhere. Where do I sit? I look around acting like I’m looking for someone so the usher doesn’t suspect that I’m actually terrified because I came here alone. I walk up the aisle and choose a seat. I feel like people are looking at me because I’m alone. Do they wonder if I’m a Christian? Maybe they pity me because I’m alone?
I can’t even sing, I feel sick. Should I stay? Of course I should stay, if my experience is that bad by the end of the morning, I just won’t come back.
Is this what it feels like? Have I become the target for “church hospitality”? I can’t be, I’m already “saved”. But, maybe I’m still a so-called “target”.
The tables in my head for a moment: you say you welcome new people, here’s your chance, prove it!
The service continues. There’s a guest speaker. Why is there always a guest speaker when you’re trying to get a feel for a “regular Sunday”?
The service ends and I’m frozen in my seat. What should I do? Leave? Go to the guest centre? I hate this, I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.
Everyone is visiting. The young people are all crowded together. People are having coffee, kids are running around, there’s laughter. No one seems like they’re in a rush to leave. I like that, it reminds me of my childhood. Could I belong here?
I can’t escape the feeling like it’s a club and I’m not part of it.
I feel completely rescued when my Mom’s cousin and his wife somehow recognize me and chat for a while. They both hug me and I feel so relieved, there’s nothing like family. After they leave, I decide to go to the newcomers table. I meet a lovely lady, who knows my parents, small world. She talks to me for a while and introduces me to her husband and son. We have more mutual friends that we talk about for a while. I ask about small groups and college and careers. She says it’s happening right now, if I want to go.
Um, no, well, um, maybe next time. Maybe you can show me where it is and maybe next week I’ll try to go.
After a quick tour I make my exit. My first Sunday impression is good, I think I’ll go back next week and maybe go to the College and Careers group.
I do indeed go back the following week. I walk to where I think the College and Careers meet. I don’t see anyone. I can’t escape the feeling of the club again. There’s people running around, they look at me but no one says anything. I feel lost. Maybe I shouldn’t go this week, it’s too soon. What if I get there and it turns out to be the “I just graduated from high school” type of college and career group? There’s nothing wrong with that, I’m just not in that zone anymore. I wait for a few minutes. I feel like a total idiot. I’m leaving.
I book it out of there. I have this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Is it this hard to belong somewhere? What happens when I actually meet people, people that have probably known each other for years and have histories together and inside jokes and stories only they know? Will they welcome me? Will I feel safe and accepted?
I become introverted in these situations. I can’t help it.
You say you want me to come but do you really want that? Do you really want to know my story? Is there actually room for me here?
Do you know how much courage it took for me to walk through those doors, to sit in your gym, to fill out a visitor card?
Because before now, I didn’t know.
Because I’ve always been in the club.