I smell smoke….
After a few whiffs around I realized it was me. If I had been 16 rather than 39, I would have had some serious explaining to do. I smelt like the rich,thick,smokey aroma of someone who’d stayed far too long in a late night bar….yet I’d only had one chai tea latte in a long beach coffee shop. Honestly. Scouts honor.
We’d just left the crime scene of our first church outreach. Sure we’ve done some of the normal stuff this year, like hand out flyers, invite people to our church, feed the homeless and give cloths to those in need. But this out reach was different…..it was really OUT….OUT of our comfort zone. OUT of our church building. And it wasn’t just the real “spiritual” people who showed up with perfectly packaged answers. It was all of us, and all of us did our messy little part. With our messy little add-lib answers.
What was the outreach? Simple..talking, listening, letting ourselves be vulnerable as Christians. Seeing people where they are. Caring about what brought them there. Letting them be where they are, because that is the truth. We simply held an open forum discussion about the Bible and the Mayan Calendar in a very “not so biblical” atmosphere and we didn’t have to “save” anyone in ten easy dance steps. But what a beautiful night it turned out to be. Letting God into the room. A room where he’d not hung out so publicly before.
Walking into the room, I felt the heat rise to my cheeks. I wasn’t sure how hostile things would get. It only took one sideways glance to find about twenty people who outwardly had nothing in common with me. From their lifestyle choice, to their tightly rolled zig zag tucked back into a tattered jean jacket. I could have been Olivia Newton Jon in a poodle skirt to them. I felt so Square.
But then I saw it. The man in the corner, drawing beautiful mayan art. He didn’t know our discussion was for him and his creative bone. I knew then, God was in the house. Hanging pictures and arranging chairs before we’d arrived, creatively creating what He wanted for the night.
All of a sudden it didn’t matter whether I fit in or not. Had a butch hair cut or rosy cheeks. Wore black nail polish with a skeleton tattoo, or pink pumps and a gold anklet. We, all of us in this funkily tossed salad of a room, were made by one Father. Some called him Abba, others still thought Abba was simply a swedish pop/rock group.
As I made the long silent drive home from Long Beach…My “Tresemme shine” smelling hair exchanged for a musky “Camel light”, I thought, “In the real world…this is how it smells….” Smiling to myself, I inhaled the smoky aftermath attached to me, and said it aloud with my prayers, “In the real world Lord, this is how it smells.”
Perhaps that’s not the sort of thing a pastor’s wife should say, but it’s true. Sometimes the sterility of our Christendom within our tidy church walls makes me choke more than the the huge whiff of menthol just blown my way.
I see people on the streets walking or in their cars driving and I wonder, how is it that we’ve missed them with the message? The Good News? Why don’t they see it as “Good News”? What can I do with my measly little life? “I smell smoke!” So where is our fire church? Our Passion?
“I smell smoke!” Do I realize my misplaced priorities and lack of spiritual insight into the broken lives around me can make me just as prone to miss the mark of love as my “non believing” friends? I don’t want to be written in as a Pharisee in God’s book of life.
As a church planter, I have the rare privilege to rethink what church is. Again and again. Like reexamining an unhealed wound, I want to see healing in the lives that step into this Christ I know. His Body of Believers. Thinking over our last church plant, I was reminded of a profound statement made by one of our leaders after a very raw “church” experience where curse words out numbered the “Amen Hallelujahs” ten to one…. but with much more sincerity. After church we had met as a leadership to regroup in prayer. Asking them how they felt about the movement of the church, one leader said it perfect when he stated, “Well, all I know is, it’s good to smell alcohol on a Sunday morning again….”
To this I add, “It’s good to smell like smoke again.” I know I’ve entered the fire.
Lord keep us from our Christian sterility, a weak substitute for true inward sanctification.
“Some wish to live their life within church and Chapel bell. I want to run a Rescue Shop within a yard of Hell.” – C. T. Studd