the church within the church

i followed a piece of paper here.  a thin 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper told me what to do and i did it.  the group met in one of the buildings on campus.  on the banks of the red cedar, i walked until i found it and here i was now, leaning against the wall.

my parents dropped me off in front of a dormitory in east lansing and drove away.  it felt like television.  i went up to my new house and met my roommate, katie.  her soccer clock ticked on the wall and someone came in and offered us cans of beer.

i wanted to go home.

eventually someone stopped me on the stairs and asked if i died today, did i believe i’d go to heaven.  it was like a secret password.  yes, i said.  yes, i believe i would.

it had only been months of knowing jesus.  years of not knowing and the collapse of a life built on sand was leaning hard against these mere weeks of the holy spirit moving through me.

i spotted christian t-shirts in the cafeteria and felt deep relief that there were other people here who loved jesus.  now i just had to figure out how to meet some of them.

thankfully, they hung 8 1/2 by 11 sheets of paper around and told you where they’d be.  groups.  para-church organizations.  clubs.  college student fellowships.

i went looking for home.

i knew less than nothing about christian culture.

i stood against the wall and watched them set up an overhead projector.  someone pulled down the screen rolled up at the front of the class and the words of the song were placed upon a lightbulb under glass.  i felt self-conscious and this was the opposite of what i’d hoped for.

i tried to sing along, but there was a hippie girl dancing almost immediately to the barely sang song and her skirt was so long.  i wondered when she last bathed and felt a strong sense of distraction, of dissatisfaction.

i caught the eye of another person standing against the wall, another person showing up, looking for home.  a wry smile and then a comment made had me holding back laughter.  trying not to laugh during church is a glorious thing.  she said something else, but this is what i heard –

“it’s okay.  this is all really weird and you don’t have to act like it isn’t.”

home.  home for me is reality, telling the truth; however small my truth may be.  off-color jokes, late walks at night, a person.  and here was one.

a friend who loves jesus.  the only church i recognized at the time, the only one i could trust.  it led me to love past my preferences eventually, but in the beginning, it was enough.  and sometimes now, it’s the only church i attend.

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