Last week, at the last minute, I was pulled in to volunteer at our church’s Coffee with the Pastors as a table leader. For those who don’t attend Floris UMC, Coffee with the Pastors is a program that allows people interested in joining the church to get together and learn more about Floris UMC and Methodism. Even though I’ve been advertising these events on social media for about three years, I had never attended one.
You see, my family has been attending Floris UMC since the late 90s. I attended Sunday school in the second building, went to church almost every Sunday and joined through confirmation when I was in the eighth grade. By following that path, there was no need to attend Coffee with the Pastors. I already know this church. I already get it.
But actually, maybe I don’t. It’s been over ten years since I went through confirmation, and I haven’t exactly been the model Christian since then. Sure, I still attend worship and I pray and I volunteer when I can, but really I pale in comparison to the people I see around me at work and in my family. My dad’s been leading a Bible study for over 15 years, and a co-worker’s husband spends almost as much time at Floris UMC as I do (the only difference is that he’s volunteering all his time, and I get paid to work there 40 hours a week).
So when a friend of mine at work asked if I could help her out at Coffee with the Pastors, I was hesitant, but I said yes. I thought this could be a chance to grow a little; take myself out of my comfort zone. I had to leave work early for some alone time before I could get through two hours of non-stop smiling and chatting (introvert status), but I was going to do this.
The thing is, I really had no idea what I was doing. “You’ll just make sure everyone has a chance to talk. Facilitate conversation,” my friend told me. Yeah, I’m so great at that. But this was a chance to help someone out, to grow in my own faith and to help others see what’s so great about Floris UMC. So, at 6:45 p.m. exactly, I showed up with my heart racing and my hands shaking. Game time.
Before I sat down, another table leader talked me through the evening. She prepared me for what I’d have to do, boosted my confidence and made me feel just a tiny bit more at ease. Then, I grabbed a few cookies and dove in.
The conversation before the presentation started was a little forced, but I kept smiling and tried to make people feel welcome. I really was glad that they were there and that they felt Floris UMC could be a home for them too; I just wasn’t that great at showing it. But no one left my table before the lead pastor, Tom Berlin, got up to speak, so I’ll take that as a win.
Tom began the night by welcoming everyone and then began sharing his story. I’d never heard his story before. It was interesting and funny and a little shocking at times. He talked about growing up in the church and about a professor who shook up his life plan in college and about a defining moment in his life during a summer job and how he eventually became a pastor. It was a good story. And I was interested up until he said, “Now, at your table, go around and answer two questions: How did you find Floris? And how did Christ find you?”
Uh oh. My first task. I had to start by answering the questions and then prompting others at my table to answer them. Okay, the first question was easy. I’ve been attending Floris UMC for most of my life. But the second question…geez, I’ve never really thought about that one before.
I got through it okay, stumbling over my words about how I’d always been connected to the church, how I’d fallen away from it a little in college and right after and how working for the church has led me back. “I think that’s where Christ has really found me,” I said, “Through working here.”
But really, I don’t know. I don’t feel like I have a certain moment where I thought, “Wow, this is it. I believe.” Sure, I stand in awe when I see natural wonders, and I thank God every day for my many blessings, but I don’t have a moment, the moment. Or at least I don’t think I do.
The rest of the night went by fine, and though I wasn’t the ideal table leader by any means, people still signed up to join so I couldn’t have done that terribly. After we were done, I debriefed with my friend and the other table leader and then headed home for some much-needed alone time.
The problem was that for the next few days, anytime I was still, I started thinking about Tom’s story, and more specifically, about my story. Compared to some stories I hear of addiction, miracles or signs from God, I never really considered my easy stroll through life to be a real story. There wasn’t a lot of adventure, no climax and the conflict was minimal at best. But after Coffee with the Pastors, I couldn’t help but dwell on it.
Maybe my story doesn’t seem that interesting because it’s still being written. Maybe if I start putting myself in more situations where I feel uncomfortable and my hands are shaking, I will finally experience the moment. Maybe Christ found me last week and pushed me to this event so that I could see that; so that I’d finally start examining my own life instead of putting it off, coasting through.
Next month, I am going on my first mission trip. I’m a little terrified to travel to Cuba—a hot place without medicine or clean water—with people I barely know, but now, more than ever, I know that it’s something I need to do. My experience last week at Coffee with the Pastors pushed me out of my comfort zone and got me to really think about my life, something I avoid doing if I can. I get it a little more now. I need to take risks and put myself out there so I can continue my journey. So one day I will be confident in telling my story and answering the question, “How did Christ find you?”