Yesterday a couple came into the computer store where I work with some questions. It was with relief that I answered them, it was an Apple thing, yessss, I actually did know the answers! As I talked with them about educational pricing and specs, the husband pointed at the cross necklace I was sporting. "I have one of those," he indicated it, and then gestured to his wife. "She got it for me."
"Yes," she affirmed, "I picked it up when I was at a women's retreat in Florida." Excitedly I asked her about the retreat, and the conversation rolled quite far away from laptops and iPads and focused instead on their work with the Christian hispanic community in Rhode Island and their new church. I was geeking out, grinning to hear of the unity of the church and the work God was doing in Providence. I couldn't stop smiling after they left, and one of my coworkers turned to me all puzzled wondering, "Did you know them? What was that all about?"
And I love that! I love that it's so weird to see a couple of strangers, people who have never met and maybe have nothing else in common except Jesus, finding joy in each other's company. I love that I can call people I've never met my brothers and sisters, and when I do meet them, I love that I can greet them as such. And I love that that's so crazy to people outside this community! Testimony is a wondrous thing.
Today I went to an evangelism workshop through Intervarsity at my friend's school. After a hazardous drive through Olneyville, I arrived precisely on time and walked into a room full of people I didn't know. Which was weird because I was expecting to know a lot people, but, no cigar. I sat down with strangers and the connection was comfortable. We talked about Jesus and our Intervarsity groups and our schools. We talked about the work God was doing, and it was exciting, and encouraging. I sat at a table where I didn't know a soul, and I didn't melt under a torrent of social anxiety. Because this was my family, even though I'd never met any of them before.
I ended up being paired with one of the leaders from Brown University for a few of the roleplaying exercises, which stressed me out because I hate roleplaying [it was actually really useful] and because the leaders just seem super-spiritual and generally more mature. It's intimidating. But as I stumbled my way through "invitation simulations" and circle diagrams, he was smiled and nodding and excitedly flipping through his Bible. He wrote down my name and my friends' names in his little softcover Moleskine and promised to pray. In a few brief and awkward conversations, I was so blessed by this guy who gave me the gift of encouragement, I can scarcely verbalize.
Every chance, every chance we get with a fellow believer, we must be building each other up. There are men in suits who visit my school every so often. They stand on the sidewalks and pass out tracts or Gideon Bibles. One of them handed me a pamphlet once; I smiled, thanked him, but I was late to class, I didn't stop. I should have, I should have stopped and prayed with him, should have told him that God is moving at URI, and I should have thanked him for his faithful service. Because that's what it means to be part of this community. Though we are strangers we are duty-bound to encourage, to be united in the Spirit.
I stood later in a circle with a friend from church, a friend from homeschooling, and a friend from school, our heads bowed as we prayed for a girl named Crystal. And it was so trippy, that one of my friends didn't know this girl, and yet he prayed fervently, sincerely for her. And it was so weird, how these friends didn't know each other, and yet here they were gathered together, vulnerably united.
This community is like a drug. It fills you up and flows right through you, and leaves you desperately thirsty for more and more. It doesn't matter who or how you meet, you have the deepest and most important thing in common. We are sisters and brothers, we build up the family of God, we are united to people we've never met. For all that is sick and wrong and upside-down in this church of broken people trying to follow Jesus, there is also a resilient good, only by God's grace, in that He has brought us together in love.