Maybe it’s the onset of the holiday season and Thanksgiving rapidly approaching that has brought on this much-needed wave of gratitude. Not sure what it is. Don’t care. I’m keeping it for as long as my selfish, needy flesh will let me. So while it is in me, allow me to express gratitude to the institution that rarely gets it: the church. My church, in particular. My as in the church I grew up in in San Antonio, Texas.
My church experience is similar and different from anyone’s who can not remember not going to church. A preacher’s daughter, I was at church on Sunday morning. And Sunday night. And Wednesday night and other times during the week to visit dad at his office and on weekends for retreats and over spring break with the youth group, at camp in the summer. My family was the last to leave after service let out. I knew where the communion cups were hidden and the communion crackers were stored and sometimes snacked on them with my friends while we waited for our parents to stop talking to “EVERYbody.”
When you’re like me and my sisters, you know every back hallway and sunday school classroom. Which one has the closet with the felt boards and felt people. The rough, light blue fabric on the pew may as well be the floral fabric on the couch in your living room–both as familiar as the other. Church, for me, was not a place of worship; it was my second home. Everyone knew who I was, it seemed, and I knew who most of them were too.
And I am deeply and forever grateful for all of it. For all of the hours spent with all of those church people. I hear a lot from my generation about how the church has messed with our thinking, how it may have presented us with faulty theology in our formative years. We are recovering from the churches that raised us. Trying to re-learn and re-do the right way. I have felt this before, but I’m beginning to see things differently.
In all of this complaining we do about our church history, it’s like we are awaiting some big apology. An apology from the people and place that taught us the only lesson worth teaching, the only story worth retelling again and again and again as many times as is physically possible: the gospel. Well, I don’t want the people that taught me the lesson of my life to apologize for anything.
No, instead I want to thank them and, even though this sounds strange, I almost want to thank the building and place itself. For it was within those walls that I met Jesus. And it was within those walls that I got to know him. That is no small gift.