I am still processing the events of this past month, but there is one thing I know to be true:
I experienced The Church in Magnolia, Arkansas on a day that an entire community, an entire church body, came together to celebrate and share stories of the life of my grandfather, Hal Harris (Pop).
‘Church’ has been a hard word and place for me in recent years – for reasons I won’t describe here and now – and walking into Central Baptist Church might have produced great anxiety for this recovering fundamentalist on any other day of the week. But this day was different.
I didn’t walk into a church. I walked into Church.
I wasn’t surrounded by the usual suffocating brick walls – I was surrounded by a people who showed up to celebrate and remember a man who lived in such a meaningful and life-changing way.
My family and I heard so many stories from so many different people about the way my Pop served them, blessed them, mentored them, prayed for them, helped them during a time of struggle. There were hundreds – they were church members, they were relatives, they were former employees and coworkers, they were both young and old.
A young woman, about my age, showed up to honor the life of “Mr. Hal” because of the way his constant kindness and positivity blessed her every week at church. Her sharing with me the influence my Pop had in her life, along with the many others who did the same, allowed me to know my grandfather in a whole new way. It also allowed me to get to know my Jesus in a whole new way.
You see, Jesus calls us out from our individuality and calls us to participate in community with one another, for one another, serving one another. This is The Church. And you know who did community well? Pop did.
Seeing and hearing the way my Pop lived this out during the last 75 years has inspired me to approach church – or Church – in a fresh way. I’ve always struggled with opening myself up to being in true community with others, as I tend to keep others at a safe distance to protect myself and my comfort from getting too close and too vulnerable. But I’m committing to learn and grow and seek to be better at this discipline of Christian love.