Wednesday, January 20, 2010

India Update 4

“During the offerings time, you get up and sing a song by yourself.”

“Um, ok,” I replied.

Though “offerings time” was less than a couple minutes away and I had no idea what song I was going to sing, I was not surprised. Things tend to just happen around here. Sometimes you pull over on the side of the road and just wait, for what you’re not quite sure. Sometimes you think you’re going to be taking a train and end up taking a bus. Sometimes you think you’re going shopping and you end up touring the belly of a submarine.

Somewhere between being asked to sit facing the congregation, standing in bare feet for twenty minutes on a strangely abrasive rug while the congregation prayed loudly in a strange language, leading impromptu songs with the group, the electricity going off (taking the fans with it), and watching the cows (or were they wildebeest) walk down the road outside the church door, I had a revelation.

As I stood in India, literally thousands and thousands of miles from anything familiar, I realized that God could care less about my individual comfort.

When Vijay asked/informed me that I would be “preaching” in church I wasn’t too worried. Having been in front of hundreds of audiences in the last 6 years, public speaking isn’t really a fear of mine. Besides, I knew I only needed to talk a couple minutes and I knew they wouldn’t really understand what I would be saying anyway. Nevertheless I didn’t just want to get up and talk about nothing. As I sat in the warm church, facing the congregation (women and children on the left, men on the right) I still had no idea what I was going to say. Then the electricity went out.

I thought to myself as the heat and humidity slowly settled around me, how nice the air conditioning in my mega church at home was. I wondered what would happen if during the hot summer the AC at my home church broke. Sadly, I realized that as time went on, and the AC went unfixed, the congregation would most likely dwindle. This is not to speak poorly of my church congregation. As a church we’ve done some really great things and I feel we’ve helped advance the Kingdom of God. It is, on the other hand, a commentary on our (myself included) addiction to comfort.

Even though I was excited for this trip, I found myself dreading the thought of leaving Omaha because it would take me so far from my routine and my comfort. I was worried to leave work because I knew I would be behind when I got back. I was worried about the foreign plumbing (or lack there of). I wasn’t worried about dying in a plane crash or getting some strange foreign disease. The things that weighed most heavily on my mind were comfort items.

For lack of something better, I spoke to the congregation what was on my mind at the moment (in short, segmented sentences to allow for translation). I said I loved India and its people and I thanked them for helping me realize and begin to overcome one of my biggest obstacles in knowing God on a deeper level. I don’t know if they got anything out of what I said. I don’t know if the Faceless team got anything out of what I said, but between God and I, I believe something was accomplished.

“We stand and lift up our hands,” I sang timidly into the microphone, “for the joy of the Lord is our strength.” I rarely sing, and never without a guitar, but there I was and there I sang. “We bow down and worship Him now, how great, how awesome is He.” As the congregation searched for the beat to clap to, I tapped in rhythm on the podium. Then a boy joined in on some Congo drums and another started playing a drum kit. I looked back and Cassie from the Faceless team was smiling with her hands in the air, the congregation found the beat and clapped along. Before I knew it, I was no longer timid. I was no longer worried about hitting the notes. What had once been very uncomfortable was now very enjoyable, I sang louder and with more confidence than I ever have in my life.

I don’t think Americans are any less Christian because we like AC. I don’t advocate pulling all the pews and chairs from the churches so that people have to sit on the floor or closing down the church coffee shops. On the other hand, it might not hurt for us to try some things that are a little uncomfortable a little more often so that we can experience God in ways we’re not accustomed too.

If nothing else, this will be a challenge to myself. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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