Being raised by two parents that love Jesus and believe in the Church is undoubtedly a piece of my story that deserves an early and significant place in the story of my preparation. One cannot begin to develop the priority that I place on a community centered around faith in a vacuum. I don’t remember a time in life that our schedule, priorities and energy were not committed to the work of Christ in the world. I felt more at home in Sunday school classrooms than I did at school or on the sports field or even at Pipe Organ Pizza. The church of my childhood was as much a part of my development as my DNA. I was educated in friendship, jealousy, heartbreak, joy, laughter and despair by experiencing the fullness on life with my faith community.
We lived in the neighborhood behind our church and on the short drive, we passed most of our best friend’s houses. Both of my parents, as well as my friend’s parents, served the church. Whether it be as choir director or board chair, finance committee leader or capital campaign chair, we found ourselves playing in the hallways while our parents were “working” most weeks. Looking back on it, this was a brilliant parenting strategy. This commitment to church life provided the parents time together and a nursery worker to lasso their wild offspring. There was nothing that could make me happier than the announcement that we were eating Happy Meals at the church tonight.
This was my family. We vacationed together. We played together. We went to each other events. We watched our parents support each other. We saw how much fun our parents had together when they sat on the beach or by the lake or in worship or played cards or even walked through hard seasons.
My parent’s closest friends belonged to a Sunday School named The Explorers. Almost 40 years later, I could pick up the phone and call anyone in that group and not only would they be there for my parents, but they would be there for me, my spouse or my kids. This is the kind of preparation I had in the advent of my life when it came to finding your people. We can go years without seeing each other, but when we do, it is like we are instantly transform into 8 year-olds hiding from our parents on the metal folding chair racks because we don’t want to go home.
I never felt shamed. I always knew I belonged. I believed that I was included. I saw the adults in my church give of their talents and time and sleep to impact our lives. This happened in the church building on Westheimer Rd., but it also happened in my living room and in the back room at Los Tios. It happened in the car on the way to camp and as we were jumping off cliffs in central Texas. I don’t remember a single “Jesus said not to…” lecture and I still know every word to Psalty’s songs and “We Like Sheep”. In the advent of my faith, I was blessed to have the engrained words of a song that I still sing on hard days, because it is so true.
Bullfrogs and butterflies, they’ve both been born again.
If you have been around the Church very long, you know that not every experience is this much fun. There were rocky roads ahead. But when I look back on the formational years of my life, I have no doubt that the preparation for my calling and love of the Church was rooted by a group of 30-somethings that said that they needed Jesus and each other to get through life.