Ethnic Church Visit was our MAF assignment for the day and here we were trying to fulfill it. My discomfort level was at an all-new high. Our class was given a list of ethnic churches to visit today and we all had to choose a different church. The Danforth Four chose one and we were excited to worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ across ethnic and linguistic barriers.
Until I walked through THOSE doors.
I didn't get the system. I didn't want to offend anyone. I didn't know if my simply standing there breathing was the very offense I didn't wish to cause because I simply didn't know what the rules were. I had never been to a service like this, one of Sterile Worship, with this game of religious acts to which I didn't know the rules. I scribbled a note to my husband in French, "I am SO uncomfortable. This is definitely a cultural experience for me."
Let's back up about an hour. The pre-requisite to this assignment was a time of meditation on Psalm 139 and searching my heart before the Lord as to my attitude towards those different than me and an invitation to have Him show me how to respond to these people. Flashes of different ethnic groups I have worked with, played with, sung with, traveled with, and lived with flashed through my mind. These flashing faces didn't make me uncomfortable.
But then, you see, I stepped through the doors of THIS church. We got the wrong church, thanks to our trusty GPS, and all of these people looked just like me. They spoke like me. I understood their words, but not their ritualistic religion. I know this denomination, but it is different than my home church or any church I have visited. I know they are family in Christ, but I did not know the rules to their Sunday Morning Game and I felt like an idiot.
Here's an MK tip of the day. Being surrounded by ethnic minorities and languages you don't understand are hardly paramount of "discomfort". For an MK, the crowning moment of uncomfortable cultural experience is being thrown into a room of people who look and speak like you but where you haven't been introduced to their tacit rules.
In that moment, God took my prejudices and my discomfort of Sterile Worshippers and stuck them right in front of my nose. We could have left. We were, after all, at the wrong church. We could have driven off in search of the Hispanic church we were SUPPOSED to visit. But my discomfort intrigued me and I knew God was surfacing the offensive way in me before my very eyes so that He could lead me in the way of understanding. Sterile Worshippers, I don't understand your ways. Nor would you understand the ways of Unrestrained Worshippers. Yet we ARE brothers and sisters in Christ.
My discomfort intrigued me to the point of needing to stay for coffee and to speak with at least a few of these people who look like me, speak like me, and worship not like me. They weren't so scary after all.
I don't know what my MAF instructor will say tomorrow. The assignment of attending an ethnic minority church is not fulfilled. But that particular button doesn't drive me to face my discomfort. I am comfortable NOT looking like everyone nor speaking like everyone because they don't EXPECT me to know the rules. It is the Me-Mirrors who peek out of the corner of their eyes at me in the pew and expect me to know why this congregation turns and sings at the same time who drive me to examine the offense in my heart and to recognize that my prejudice preys mostly on a faces that LOOK LIKE me but ACT differently than me. I am a sinner short in the area of grace and needing a Saviour to test me and know my anxious thoughts and lead me in the way of understanding.
"Search me, O God, and know my heart,
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there be any offensive way in me,
And lead me in the way of understanding."