how it tends to be


i was alone when i met god.

i was near church people, but i was alone on a dock reading the bible.

the spirit of god, the holy spirit, came near.  it came by me.  i felt it and it registered in my soul that i was not alone, i was on holy ground now, a holy dock.

i never walked down an aisle and i didn’t raise a hand when heads were bowed.  i was 18 years old and everything changed.


the weeks and months that followed included me seeing the world through new eyes. every song was different, every veil was lifted.  i understood the hiddeness of truth wherever i looked, always there, but never perceived by me before this time.  i was in love.

i looked for my love, too.

if i found a kindred soul who sang about this god, this real one, then i listened to those songs alone.  when i found a friend whose eyes bore the light of the spirit that led me, than i knew i’d found another, a comrade who was true.  another who knew the one i loved.

i began college shortly after my life headed this way and the timing was kind. instead of drinking my four years away, i’d steal far from class and head to the river banks and read about jesus and how he did what the law could not do and i’d cry as my heart grew three times that day.  i’d sit in the sunlight and the holy spirit would come and i’d revel.

i’d search out streams, waterfalls, any place where water met land and convince friends to come with me and talk through the proverbs as the rushing water spoke it’s piece, too.

i was in love with the presence of the holy one of israel and i was amazed that i’d never known it before.  where was everyone?  why weren’t they climbing up on rocks to read the words on thin pages, too?


after getting married, we lived in chicago and i wanted a job.  i’d never had a real job. full-time and benefits sort of thing, so i looked around at my options and found a place that would only employ you if you loved jesus.  they didn’t put it quite that way, but being who i was, that’s all i heard.  i hoped and prayed and signed a paper that said i wouldn’t dance or drink and got a job in the human resources department.

so happy was i.

i learned the job and met lovely people and knew we were all living out a romance that was unique and beautiful.  i remember walking to chapel with a group of folks one morning.  imagine!  a job that paid me to go hear someone speak about the wonders of this god that i loved.

i was so happy that i did a little dance in the hall until someone stopped me and said,

“ah ah ah!  you better knock that off.”  they had a playful smile on their face.

“oh right!’  i laughed.  “no dancing at work.”  i giggled with the best of them until I noticed that their smiles dropped and with a curious look they said with not a hint of a playful tone.

“at work?”  they responded.

“yes..”  i replied slowly, “we aren’t suppose to dance at work?”  now i was a little confused.

“you aren’t suppose to dance at all.”

i took a minute and processed this.  and i didn’t like it.

“what do you mean?”

“that paper you signed.”  they clarified.

“yes.”  i demanded.

“that’s not just for work.  that’s all the time.”

if the floor would’ve opened up and swallowed me, i would’ve welcomed it.

somewhere in the back of my brain there was a little itch.  religion.  where people made you do stuff.  no dancing, no smoking.  rules that…i don’t know.  but rules were out there somewhere. and that somewhere was here and i’d signed on the dotted line!  i was a victim of circumstance.  i was a baptist or something.  i began to panic and think of all the things that piece of paper had said.

i’d read it in a rush when i’d applied.  i thought how silly it was to require employees to agree not to do these kinds of things at work, but whatever and i signed it.  the drinking and dancing were there; yep.  then i’d also said i’d wear a skirt to work; was that all the time, too?  movies!  it said i wouldn’t see r-rated movies!  i was pretty sure i’d already broke that one.  i looked up into the faces of my incredulous co-workers who no doubt had been signing things like this since preschool and smiled.

“oh yeah.  I knew that.”


christianity is a strange beast.

the god question and where permission for behaviors is granted or denied.

we are at a loss at what to do with god.  he is willing to come near, but as soon as he does we have to explain what we’ve seen.  answers we give that are no answers at all.  life we offer that is void of life.

it’s a wonder that any of us have any love in our lives at all.

the desire to control what we may is stronger than the grave.  but the nature of love and of god is out of our hands.  it never feels like we’re putting him in a box, it just feels like we’re getting it right.  there are ways it could play out as natural as a lake swim, but it doesn’t.

the church doesn’t and the state doesn’t.  jesus talks about it all the time, but we still need and try to understand in our humanity how to box it in, how to figure it out, usually to our advantage.  we want it less messy, more orderly.

i doubt i’m going to reinvent the wheel at this point.  i’m just telling my story.

i’m telling what it’s been like for me to know jesus.  and of how i’m trying to avoid checking the boxes, how to keep god out of boxes and how to keep a heart that feels love for god and for others.

writing with emily today…

6 thoughts on “how it tends to be

  1. That’s wonderful, Zena. Thanks for the stories, and for focusing on what is important and being irreverently polite (it’s a great quality) toward that which isn’t.

  2. I think you write as naturally as a lake swim, Zena. This is beautiful.

    I have spent my life trying to make communities of believers that grow together in the ways of the Spirit. I know, because I’ve seen it, that it is possible.

    I hope you never give up on the church. She is beloved and she doesn’t get it wrong nearly as often as some say.

  3. hi mark.

    no, no. i won’t be giving up on the church and thereby, myself, any time soon. i hope.

    nice to hear from you today.


  4. That which connects us all is within your heart and you speak from your heart Zena.
    Thank You.

  5. Dear Zena,
    Thank you for this post. I was very blessed reading it and it resonated deeply with me. How much I long for the blessings of Christian Community as He describes in His word and how my own best efforts to ‘get it right’ only end up getting it all wrong. I am learning that truth and brokenness with Him are the only ways into true community. Your post blesses me, that yes, this is the way and only He can do this.
    Thank you very much,
    bless you,

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