I Used to Dream...About Who I Would Become
When I was younger, I used to dream about what my life would be like someday.
Someday. When I grew up and married, and had a family. When I lived in a big house in the suburbs. My lovely wife would be busy in another room, cooking perhaps, while I watched the Masters golf tournament in my wood-paneled den. And then maybe, after it was over, I would head out to the country club to hit a bucket of balls. I used to dream about this when I was a boy.
It would be nice there, at that country club. Everyone would know my name, and treat me with deference; perhaps a form of vague reverence, as I would be so well respected in the community, such a successful, well-groomed, nice person. That club would feel so safe, and warm, and homey, and comfortable. It would make all the trouble, pain, and confusion of the outside world seem, well, so far away. Outside those metal gates that opened only to the select; those who knew the right secret combination on the keypad.
My only worry would be my back-swing, my slice, and my handicap. The hurt of reality outside those ivied gates would be muted by the thick carpeting, the hardwood walls, the hush of the lounge, and the security fencing around the perimeter of the course. No trouble here in the clubhouse locker room. And, next to the sinks, all those men's toiletries lined up so neatly - looking like no one ever used them. Order, tradition, respectability, good grooming. So safe, so insular, never changing. Comforting.
What I Have Become Instead
I never joined a country club. Too expensive, and a waste of money, if I just want to feel comfortable and insulated.
But recently, I have been wondering if, subtly and over a very long time, like slow growing vines, I have not become a part of something similar to the country club. Entrenched and insulated, apart from the world. Warm and cozy. Safe, non-threatening. A refuge from reality. An escape.
That something is my church. And really its not the church itself, but more, its me, and the way I approach what my faith means to me. And, as I think of it, that thought is sad. Very sad.
How do we get like this, we "church people"? How do we, in middle age, turn into those things we most disliked about the older generation when we were in our twenties? What has happened?
Maybe its just too much time inside. Inside the country club, with the warm wood tones, and people who make us feel good, valued, important. We form our little committees, and move on with our little agendas. There will be a potluck. Cookies will be served. There is that painting of a smiling Jesus on the wall over there. He always smiles.
But outside those warm church walls, outside the carpeted committee rooms and Sunday school classrooms there is a real world. Its noisy, and in a hurry. It is hurting, and there is seems to be no soothing that pain. It doesn't really care much at all what we church people do. Because much of the time, what we church folk do is irrelevant to that real world. Men sleep on cold and rainy streets, children are born without families that will really love them, couples fight and separate and never come back to each other. Lives are fractured. Sometimes it feels hard to take in a deep breath, out there in that real world. Your chest hurts too much, you can't really take it all in.
And so, we church folk, turn around and head back inside. Inside the Country Club.