and ramblings on everything in between
I would be lying if I didn’t say that part of the reason why I wanted to build a life on the East Coast was to impress others. Yes, I wanted an adventure. I wanted to be a writer living in a cottage on the coast of Maine. I wanted to be a John Steinbeck instead of a John Steinbeck character. But I also wanted to have a really good story to tell at my 10-year high school reunion. I’m shallow, I know.
Once I got away from the person I had become back at the law firm, I found that what I was after was not the life that would impress a group of classmates I didn’t recognize anymore, but a life that did something to change the brokenness that shatters people’s lives. The same brokenness that showed up over and over again in my journals.
I grew up going to church with my mother and two siblings. We showed up every Sunday at 9:00 and when we left at 10:30. We went about our week never speaking of God again. After moving to college, I stopped going to church all together. And during the bleak years between college and East, I certainly didn’t think faith was something I needed to pursue. Well, until the last few months before leaving that is. A co-worker at the time happened to mention her church in passing one day. My interest was piqued and I went to one of their services a few weeks later. It had a fresh new feel compared to the church I grew up in. They talked about having a meaningful relationship with God. They encouraged people to walk with God on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, not just Sunday like I was used to. Although I was interested, I wasn’t ready for it. I went every now and then, but didn’t like facing all the things I knew I needed to face while I was there.
As soon as I got to my new home in Massachusetts, I knew I wanted to make church a part of my life. Luckily for me, it was hard to walk into a bar by myself, but it was easy to walk into a church by myself. I thought it would be a good way to meet friends who did anything other than spend their weekends at the bar. I knew I needed to sit down and deal with things I didn’t want to deal with when I was at home. I could start over there.
So I searched the internet for churches close to my house. I had no real criteria, I knew I wanted to visit a few different ones anyway, so I picked the first one that came up. The next Sunday, I walked in and sat down, not expecting it to be anything special. While looking through the program, a guy started walking up the aisle I was in and asked if he could sit by me. I said of course and he introduced himself as Matt, asked if I had been to the church before, and then the service started. Afterwards, he shared a little bit of his story with me. He was new in the area, as well. He had moved there from Tennessee about six months before to work for the major league soccer team in New England. I explained I had just arrived, too, and he asked me to lunch so I went.
I’ve walked into many new situations before, and I generally go unnoticed in the crowd and life goes on the same. I cannot remember ever being approached by a stranger and asked to lunch/dinner/coffee. But there I was, a new girl in a new town needing a friend.
At the time, this encounter with Matt didn’t seem like a life changing moment. My mom gave me a plaque recently that says, “Enjoy the little things in life, for someday you will realize they are the big things.” Looking back now, I can tell that this chance meeting was a little thing that became a very big thing.
After lunch, Matt and I exchanged numbers and over the course of the next few months, we became friends, exploring Boston and the area together. Through Matt, I was introduced to a few different Christian young adult groups. Through those groups, I met more people who welcomed me like no one ever has before. I saw something in them that I wanted for myself.
Between that summer in 2008 and the summer of 2011, my faith grew at rapid speed. I made church a priority, small groups a priority, serving in a ministry a priority. I had a hunger to learn more and to do better. It was a long “deconstruction process” coming to the realization that the brokenness in my life could be fixed and healed by faith in God and thanksgiving for what Jesus did, but God didn’t give up on me. In July 2011, I decided I was ready to be baptized. I had made the commitment in my heart to live for God, but I wanted to make the decision publicly, as well. While speaking to a pastor at my church about what baptism means and how I had come to the decision to accept Christ as my Savior, my thoughts kept coming back to Matt. If Matt hadn’t sat by me that day, I knew I wouldn’t be sitting in that chair speaking to the pastor. If Matt hadn’t asked me to lunch, I don’t think my journey East would have ended the same way.
I knew I needed to thank Matt for the impact he had on my life. I sent him an email explaining how my faith had deepened since we last spoke and thanking him for helping me to change my life. His response was, “I guess you never know what kind of impact you might have on someone. I’m glad God used my desire to talk to a pretty girl for something good.”
When Matt walked into the church that day in 2008, I doubt he thought he’d have a profound impact on someone’s life. I doubt he asked God to use him in a powerful way. I bet he walked in, thought he didn’t want to sit by himself, and saw me as he was walking down the aisle.
When I look around my little corner of the world, I often feel so overwhelmed by how much love people need. It reminds me of Matthew 9,
“When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to the disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.’”
I am weighed down by how much work there is to do, but I recently came to the realization that God doesn’t expect me to change the whole world. He simply asks us to love one person at a time. You never know what that love will do. What asking a broken girl to lunch will do. You have the opportunity to change lives one small, loving act at a time. Matt didn’t expect to walk into church and change my life that day, but he did. And you can do the same.