I haven’t been able to write. With a book deadline, a new job, and trying to process all I experienced at the Wild Goose festival, I haven’t known how to express all that I have been feeling or thinking. During overwhelming times like these, my dad says, “life can feel like trying to drink out of fire hose. It all just comes at once and you feel like you may drown.” I have been drowning these last two weeks.
But there’s this thing about drowning: it only takes one hand to reach for you and pull you to safety. This week, that life-giving hand came in the applause of a three year old named “Willow.” Before I share her story, let me first share how I got to this moment of drowning. It all started with a sign.
“Make what you wish existed.”
That sign hangs in the co-working space that I currently share in Costa Mesa. I am working in the co-working space for several reasons.
Lets start with the positive:
– Getting to know the community around my New Church Start in Costa Mesa is top priority for me.
– I get to work alongside some really talented creatives and entrepreneurs.
Now for the not so positive:
– My new church appointment does not have office space for me, or my books. Instead, my normal office is sitting in Rubbermaid bins on the side of the sanctuary – a constant reminder that this place has not yet become home.
– For the first month, my new church didn’t have power because someone kept stealing our cooper wire. I tried to think of it as we were doing organic church…camp style.
So in the meantime, I have been working in this artistic and innovative co-working space called the Wayfare. Lots of other start-up pastors also work there. Sometimes I overhear planning sessions of really creative worship services. As I hear the ideas pour forth, I get overwhelmed with trying to envision what my new church will look like. This feeling gets worse each time I pass the sign “Make what you wish existed”. I find myself doubting my ability to create anything anyone wishes existed. I have always dreamed of creating the church and worship services I wish for, but the excitement of that idea sure seems to fade in the face of daily community, building, financial and other resource issues.
These challenges show up in many ways. Our building is 100 years old and has no room for classrooms or fellowship other than worship itself, the existing congregation is in varying stages of being on board with anything new, and the surrounding community has great need but is hard serve. When you add these obstacles on top of trying to work out a stream of income to keep the doors open, it gets difficult to imagine being creative enough to make anything, let alone something you wish existed.
Last week was a particularly hard week. On Monday I discovered that some contracts created before my appointment to the church were not working out as hoped – which is making the church’s financial situation, among many other things, much more…challenging. Then on the same day, someone tried to break into the building…and a June bug flew in my car window. I am afraid of all bugs, but let’s just say I am never emotionally prepared for the ones that are the size of hummingbirds and fly.
Sitting in my car about to cry, I began to pray. Then I remembered a tiny incident – a moment of proof that something that I do wish existed is being created… already.
Worship as it is right now is awkward, especially in the music department because, among other things, we have no worship leader. Instead, our accompanist plays the hymns while all of us try to sing along. Our accompanist is very talented, but without a worship leader we often feel like we are just stumbling through the music. Sometimes, in the middle of a service, I just want to stand up and declare: “Just wait! I know this is awkward, but hold tight – something new and great is coming!”
The other awkward part of this whole “new church in an old church” setting is that is that although the church has a few rooms other than the sanctuary, they are currently full of pipe organ parts, one tiny office or too small to house a class.. So…when new families show up, we have no classroom space for their children – so they sit and worship with their parents.
These two awkward components crashed into each other this last week in a life-giving moment that saved me from drowning in my own doubt. This last week was Willow’s first week at our church. This little darling showed up excited for church in a beautiful dress and shiny shoes. Her parents seemed worried about her chattering mid-worship, but I loved it. During the time of the offering the accompanist played a beautiful piece. When she was done instead of the usual silence that fills that huge sanctuary, Willow was overcome and clapped exclaiming “Good job!” Overwhelmed by her enthusiasm and the beauty of the song, everyone else joined in the applause.
I sat in my car staring at my beautiful hot mess of a church, Willow’s joyous applause came flashing back to me. In that moment, I could see the beauty and joy of who we were becoming. We are an absolute mess, but we are also beautiful and joyful.
And with that tiny clap, Willow saved me from drowning. So I am pressing on with God, Willow and the rest of my congregation to “make something both Willow and I wish existed.”