What she does believe in is generosity. In sharing whatever she's eating. In taking care of each other and giving voice to the voiceless. Or, as that Jesus guy said, in "loving your neighbor as yourself."
She tells me that I'm the only "churchy" person she's ever known well. She regards the Church with suspicion, not having grown up in one, and having heard mostly exclusionary, judgmental messages from our loudest voices.
But G is a writer, and thus has a gift for observation. She "gets" me on a surprisingly deep level for someone I've known only a year. So, among several presents that made me grin, I found this book.
"I saw it on the shelf and knew right away that you'd love it. I had to get it even though I'd already bought your present," mused G.
Understand, please, that the content doesn't set her heart on fire or anything. But she knew that it would do so for mine.
It got me thinking about a couple of things:
- It's a gift to be truly seen and to be loved as the person you are. I think that's what our relationship with our Creator is, most fundamentally. It's warts-and-all acceptance, coupled with the desire for the loved one to keep right on becoming.
- In order to truly give something, you have to empty yourself. This gift was not about G. Many people I know (and certainly I'm one of them sometimes) would be more likely to offer something that's meaningful to them, in the hope that it will be meaningful to the recipient. And I think there's often a lovely impulse behind that, as well. But the conscious choice to offer a gift with no agenda other than the joy and growth of the recipient...that's powerful stuff.
- What if we just met people where they are, with all the love we can muster?
- What if we stopped treating our Christian story as something that needs defense and protection from the unbeliever (or the "wrongbeliever") and started acting in the confidence the love of God is so strong, it can't be constrained?
- What if we found a way to truly see the stranger, and respond in love to her/his full humanity--the pain, the growth, the joy, the brokenness?
- What if we could act from a position of equality, instead of one of "I have something you need," or (worse) "I know how you should be living?" Just as fellow human beings on the same level--as friends.
- What if my churchless friend G has a clearer understanding of what it is to be Church than we on the "inside" do?
- What if we listened to her and learned from her example?
So, G--thanks for the gift. And for the Gift. :-)