Why did a twenty-something seeker with little church history choose to become a United Methodist, and why do I affirm that choice over and over again? I’ll tell you. Read #1: Questions.
When I lived in Chicago I lived off the CTA. The buses and trains were my lifeline. They sheltered me from the snow, they took me to work, they brought home my groceries. I rode the bus and I walked through train cars and I realized: I come from a bubble.
In my hometown nobody walks or takes public transit anywhere. We drive big cars from big houses to big stores and park them in big garages behind big gates. We love our neighbors and wave to them through windshields. When we visit friends we leave our fenced-in yards to sit for awhile in theirs. I left that bubble to go to college, a colony of academic youth nestled in — but not of — the community that surrounded it. I watched the world pass from inside my bubble, never for a second realizing that there was a barrier between me and the people I watched pass by.
There is no bubble on the bus. Your snow-flaked shoulders rub against whoever decides to sit next to you. You bump your grocery bags into the legs of strangers as you hustle towards the door. You listen to phone calls, you read over shoulders, all while people listen to your phone calls and read over your shoulder. You are not only in the community, you are of it, too.
When my bubble popped I began to touch strangers for the first time in my life. The rich and the poor, the happy and the miserable, the healthy and the sick: We shared moments of our lives each day in our passing. The more I began to touch people, whether it was physically or emotionally or socially, the more I began to care about them. The more I began to connect with them. The more I cared about their health, their family, their soul. This was happening while I read about Jesus, the man/teacher/prophet/Immanuel who broke through every barrier ever created. The one who refused to live in a bubble. The one who crossed ethnic and social and cultural boundaries to be with the hopeless and the lost and the sick. Then he healed them with a touch.
I am United Methodist because I left my bubble and walked through the world, and everywhere I went I found United Methodists. I found them among mansions and in between row houses. I found United Methodists of different shades speaking different languages. I found them rubbing shoulders with me on every bus and every train.
I found United Methodists serving those in need, which pleased me. Then I found United Methodists living among those in need, which inspired me. Then I found United Methodists in need, which changed me.
I can’t be a part of a church that tries to put me into another bubble, that supports my natural inclination to wall myself off from the world around me. I need a church that pushes me to be in the world, to tear down boundaries, to cross into new places. I need a church that can show me how to live a full life because it lives a full life. I need a church that doesn’t have missionaries in strange lands but brothers and sisters there. I need a church that knows the greatest gift we have to offer the world isn’t our pity, or our money, or our doctrine. It’s our touch.
More from Lance at lancemarshall.net