Back To Church… After 1.5 Years — Part 1

I want to introduce to you Julie, my blogger friend. Julie blogs here. If you want to know more about nutrition, healthy choices, natural lifestyles, fitness, etc., you will need to read her blog. I have appreciated Julie’s comments on my posts over several weeks and have enjoyed her challenges to maintain a healthy lifestyle even in the midst of our busy lives. We’ve maintained a cordial back-and-forth in this sort of meta-virtual-word-fueled world, which may sound ethereal, but in this case has actually been a very enriching experience.

When Julie told me she was returning to church after 1.5 years, I was totally intrigued. I am always captivated by people’s experiences in churches — I want to know why they first came, why they stopped coming, what made them come back, etc., etc.

And this is not merely an intellectual exercise. Years ago, when I lived on the West Coast, a friend told me that she asked one of her friends, who was from a country south of us, to attend her church, which also happened to be my church at the time. The guy came and she asked for some feedback. Judging from what he wrote on the bottom of the church bulletin, it would be safe to say that he didn’t feel exactly welcome. He scribbled, “Your church gives me the creeps.” Enough said.

Julie posted a comment about a famous quote attributed to Gandhi, which unfortunately has not been found in any of his writings, but was supposedly heard by Gandhi’s grandson. I responded, “Jay talks about that Gandhi quote in his book Go and Do. He says he used to see it as a call to action, to go change the world, but now he sees it more of a call not to wait around for others to change before I change myself. ‘I interpret it as an admonition to transform myself,’ which is, I think, the way you are seeing it.”

I went on to talk about Julie’s church visit. I asked her to write down her thoughts and I would post them here on my blog. Graciously, she agreed to do it (thanks, Julie!) and in keeping with my promise, today I am posting the first part of her journey:

“OK, bud, you asked for it. So exciting that you are actually interested, that you have all these questions. With most everyone, I believe, I’m like a kook for being so crazy about God and taking the church seriously. 

But first, Gandhi commentary. Really cool that you expressed different ways of understanding ‘be the change that you want to see in the world.’ I just asked my project manager what he thought about it and he responded with another quote from Gandhi that I have never heard. It went something like, ‘Live today as though it were your last, but as though you had 1,000 more years.’ 

I’m still trying to digest it. Oh… so how I get the ‘be the change’ quote: If I have great visions in the world, if I am gifted with seeing problems and solutions and having the heart and courage to change, then I must learn to live from the ground up. I can’t expand into the world until God gives the go-ahead. I can’t fully promote love until I am filled with love. I can’t promote the fullness of God until I am filled with the Holy Spirit. I can’t be a firm, reliable warrior until I am fully a disciple. 

Basically, if I want to see love and nonviolence in the world, I need to get it and live it from the core of my being.  It needs to radiate out from the core of my existence. I need to be cleansed of my misdirected ambitions and manipulations first. If I want to see changes in the world, I need to drop all my weapons and let God mold me as He sees fit. Wordy and scattered, but it’s my best for the moment. ‘An admonition to transform myself’ was a much more succinct way of putting it. I also agree with Jay’s more recent understanding. 

Now… my experience in church yesterday…” 

For that, you will have to come back tomorrow and I guarantee you: it will be nothing like you are expecting it to be and it will make you wonder whether you have ever been to church yourself!

Ivanildo C. Trindade