Statue?

Joseph Garlington once told the story of an Asian woman looking for a house. Everywhere the realtor took her, she would look around and say, “Nice house. No statue.” The realtor, thinking she was a devout catholic, took her to houses with statues of the Virgin Mary, statues of St. Joseph, and every other statue he could think of. Still, everywhere they went, she would go inside, look around, and simply comment, “Nice house, no statue.”

Finally, back at his office, the realtor looked at the lady in frustration and asked, “Ma’am, everywhere we’ve gone, you’ve said “Nice house, no statue. Just what IS a statue?”

She picked up the phone on his desk, held it to her ear, and said “‘Stat you?”

Oh, the places I’ve been these past four weeks looking for church. The first week, a church called “Good Shepherd” (aka “The Well”) visited Huntington University and did church here. The next week, I did church with The Well again. It was nice, but it felt like something was missing.

The next week, I visited Bible Baptist Church near the University. It lived up to most of my stereotypes, and I thought seriously about walking out on three different occasions. Last week, I tried a place called The 509. The 509 was okay. It was very hip, rebellious-against-everything-that-looks-like-church, and almost all the attendees were college students.

The past two Sundays, I was massively frustrated. I felt like I was dating churches, to borrow the title from Joshua Harris’s book. Nothing was sticking. There wasn’t any one thing that I could point to and say that it was missing (except at the Baptist church, no offense)… there was just something intangible that wasn’t there.

This past weekend, God’s been doing work in me. He’s been showing me that my pride has been getting in the way of getting what I need. I need help from people here, but I refuse to ask for it because I don’t need it. I’m a walking contradiction. He’s been telling me that I need to start serving in spite of not having community to do it in – to feed others when I feel like I’m starving myself. To build my relationship with Jesus and serve others out of that, even though it’s the last thing I want to do. I want to love as part of a team.

Another thing, too: He gave me peace about church; I knew that today would be okay as far as church goes. I couldn’t tell you exactly how I knew that; I just did. I had this feeling that I didn’t need to worry about church anymore. Not that I’d find a home church today, but that I could stop worrying about it. So I did.

I did a google search for a non-denominational church near Huntington, Indiana, and I found one. It’s about ten miles east of the University. Some things on their web page gave me pause, but for the most part, they seemed worth a try. After all, their slogan is “Love God, Love People.”

I drove through a few miles of cornfields to get to Union Church this morning. It was definitely a country church. As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw three generations there: the young, their parents, and the elderly. There weren’t a lot of college students. For some reason, I was relieved.

When I went inside, there was something there that I couldn’t really describe. It didn’t feel stiflingly religious, nor did it have the oh-so-hip feel of the 509. Grandmas and great-aunts from rural Indiana are rarely hip, praise God. I’m on “hip” overload.

When I walked into the auditorium and sat down, I saw two comforting things: a cross with a cloth draped over it, reminding me of Word of Life, and a pair of basketball hoops. The only other kids there who looked quite college-age were five or six people from Huntington University who were visiting like I was. I was also comforted by the music playing from the PA system among all these older people: I heard Steven Curtis Chapman, Avalon, and PlusOne. (You don’t hear PlusOne in many churches…)

Then the worship service started. Nobody really raised their hands, but I was okay with it. The worship team, most of whom were old enough to be my parents, sang a a-little-too-fast version of the Newsboys’ song “He Reigns” just a little off-key. It wasn’t perfect, but it was honest and reminded me of home.

The message was about talking to people in the world, stepping across the room and talking to people, like Jesus did in the story of the woman at the well. I realized that I hadn’t really been proactive in loving people out here much because I’d been so busy focusing on getting help for myself that I hadn’t done anything to help (hardly) anyone else!

After the service, a couple of really friendly older guys treated me like a part of their church. I told them I was from Huntington University, but they didn’t treat me any differently. No better, no worse. It wasn’t much different than if I had said it was a sunny day. I didn’t really even have to talk to people there to feel the love. I just walked around the auditorium, listening to the sound of conversation and watching little kids jump on their daddies. There was a “stat-you” there.

Somewhere between the barely-off-key worship service, the church in the middle of a cornfield, the every-generation-present family, and the basketball hoops in the sanctuary, I found home. I don’t necessarily know if that means Union Church is going to become my home church… it just means that I walked out of there different. It was as if the sterility surrounding Huntington, Indiana, was peeled away like an ugly skin in my eyes and I could see something underneath. The “something underneath” looked an awful lot like home.

Even when I went back to the campus, the school was different. It too had had its sterility peeled away to reveal something softer, warmer… and safer. It was the strangest thing. I don’t know quite what happened or how, but I’m different.

God’s been telling me to keep praying… and I’ve been listening. I think that church was the first time I’ve felt safe since I left Jumonville, besides Word of Life and VLC.

Glory to Jesus. I’ve been saved again. God is so much better than I would’ve guessed, and He’s saved me so many more times and in so many more ways than the churches where I grew up think of as salvation.

I think He likes me.

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