We enter the building where the Catalyst Pre-Labs were being held (I was there for the IF:Gathering pre lab), and I remarked to my friend, Amy, This is the most number of Christians I’ve been around in four years. It’s not entirely true. We did make it to a mega church once or twice when we were in Australia.
For the past four years, experiencing God and Jesus and church in Switzerland and Sweden meant small, unknown, other, strange. No one I meet asks me where I go to church. Most people presume I don’t. On the odd occasion that my faith comes up, it is usually met with a blank stare before the person who inadvertently found out changes the subject. We talk about the weather, the children, but we won’t be talking about faith again.
And I loved it. The anonymity, the feeling – finally – that no one was watching me and trying to figure out if I was a Calvinist or egalitarian or insert-irritating-category-here, I loved that I could live what I believed instead of talk about it, I loved that the few who were curious asked and that felt precious, costly.
Culture shock, I believe that’s the correct term for what I felt in those first hours at Catalyst. The amount of make up alone was overwhelming, the fair trade jewelry that was uniform and also not, the concert-style worship beamed into an overflow room before a dynamic preacher took the stage (with an excellent sermon), the “y’all”-ing, and to finish off the Bible-beltness of it all, we eat Chick-fil-A for lunch. I’m sitting in a large room shoulder-to-shoulder with women I’ve never met (except for two friends), and I want to disconnect, I want to feel even more other and strange here than I do in Sweden, but this is when I remember.
She turns to me, the one on my right, and we have a long conversation. She asks about my life, I ask about hers. I don’t have to explain to her why I stay at home with my kids, and I don’t have to explain that it’s hard. She tells me about some choices her family has made, to live life outside of their comforts, to push the boundaries of race in their community, the way their relationships have changed, the cost they paid. I’m sure she wasn’t even scratching the surface, but in those minutes, I remember what it’s like to not be alone, I remember that there are those who are walking a road toward faith forming their culture, not the other way around. I remember that living in a way that pushes against popular culture is what I’ve always wanted.
Several hours later, I’m standing in line waiting to talk to someone, and I start talking to the woman next to me. We exchange our basic details, and nod in agreement, one stay at home mom to another, she tells me about her life in a mid-sized town. She tells me about the prayer walking, the people on the margins, the meals given, the dream of community living, her belief that she has one life and she wants to make it count. And I remember that I’m not alone, I remember that there are others – there have always been others – whose dreams and desires have been about the marginalized, the poor, the oppressed. I remember that there are thousands of women who are working out how to live out a calling at home and a calling outside of it.
We finish talking, the tears didn’t just well in my eyes, a few dripped down, I can’t remember the last time I stood in line crying having a conversation with a random woman, but I suppose she wasn’t random. There is a God man and a cross that connects us, his spent life for us asks us to spend our lives for others. We are connected in a way that spans continents and culture and language and background and expectations and categories and differences and beliefs. We are walking on a road, the church alive, living and breathing in us, we link arms across the ocean.
I left stronger. My mind, clearer. My heart, refreshed. My soul, reminded. You are not alone.
How about you, when do you feel most connected to people who share your faith?