By Jennifer Hocking
Why am I here? Honestly, I think if someone hasn’t asked this question at least a dozen times in their path to deciding to be Christian and where they demonstrate that commitment, they’re not doing it right. I am pretty sure Jesus’s followers said, “What am I doing here?” a time or two. And yet…there they were racking up the Frequent Walker Miles.
I don’t have a great faith story. I’ve never heard a voice or a shout. No subtle pushes or flashes of insight. Definitely no “Holy Ghost” moments that would be the envy of a Scooby-Doo episode. Yes, there was the obligatory attendance as a kid, but I didn’t really understand what was going on. Jesus was seemingly the favorite uncle everyone said was awesome but you’d never met the guy; apparently, he was great fun at parties with stellar taste in wine. God was like Santa but with far scarier powers than putting you on the Naughty List. Going to a highly technical, scientific school didn’t help with finding the presence of God either. But He still found me in sneaky ways. I found Him in a kind, random conversation with a stranger walking to the aquarium. In a moment of panic over finals one year (I’m still thanking Him for that one). Watching the fascinating array of creation while people-watching in the airport. In a beautiful horseback ride in the autumn through trees determined to show off who had the best leaf color. In a stunning sunset over the ocean with colors no painter can quite capture. In the warming, beautiful crackle of a fire in winter watching embers wiggle heavenward. Standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon. And, dirty secret, in Elvis’s gospel music (anyone else jam out to “Swing Down, Sweet Chariot” with the volume a little louder than it should be?).
In short, to borrow Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words, “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”
But why am I here? This place, this building on this pale blue dot? For the food! Just kidding! Even though I’ve had some amazing food through the years… I do sometimes wonder why I open my big mouth and say those fateful words, “Sure, I’ll do it.” And then my memory will step in and helpfully remind me why. It’s because there is so much heart and good being done in this place. There are amazing people taking on remarkable challenges that aren’t necessarily changing the world in a single action. But, the people in this church are starting the ripples that become larger and larger into significant change. There are people who inspire me and make me want to be a better person in deed, not just word. Who keep me wanting to grow and inspire others with my faith and show that life could be so amazing if you just open your heart a liiiiiiitle bit and let it off the leash once in a while.
It sounds really sappy and it is. But it’s also the truth. Even when I’m frustrated and tired and wondering how so many people forgot that simple “Love thy neighbor” rule. Three little words, seemingly a whole lotta interpretation out there. But this church, these people, have a genuine desire to help and you can feel the love of the people here for Christ, for each other, and for our fellow humans in all their many unique ways. I’ve watched this church accomplish things when there were tons of doubts and questions on how, exactly, this was going to actually happen. And yet, somehow it always did.
It doesn’t mean it’s always been easy. When you’re hot (or cold) and tired and somehow everyone is looking at you for an answer and you just want to go home, it’s hard to feel the love. And amazingly enough, in each of those moments, that is when I’ve learned the most about loving my fellow man. Because others doubled down and we all worked with Jesus and all His helpers to finish strong.
Jesus never said it was going to be easy. He did say it would be worth it. And here, in this place with these people, it’s never hard to remember why I am here.