I believe we were created to belong to each other.
Strange words for an introvert nonconformist like me. I’ve always been the one to question how others do it, draw up my own plan, feel snubbed when others rejected my corrections, and retire to the corner with a book.
Still, I joined a church. And I stayed.
Remember the wit who remarked, “I’m not sure I would want to join any organization that would have me as a member”? Well, a lot of adult converts I’ve met are people who used to feel this way—but got over it.
A friend of mine says we should put a sign over the entrance to the sanctuary reading, “Enter if you feel shorn and needy.” Of course, such a sign would have scared me away.
I went in that door looking for Truth. If Truth lived under that cross, maybe Truth could explain to me why so many of my endeavors in life had failed. Truth could show me where I had fallen short—or where, as I suspected, the world had fallen short.
So I went through the door into a quiet, darkened space in which people sat listening. A man was reading from an old book, a book of history and precept and mystery; then he began to talk, touching on incidents from the past that, strangely, were facts of my own present. Then a voice from the crossed wood began speaking directly to me.
“You’ve grown a lot over the past season, haven’t you? Rambled out in all directions, covered quite a bit of ground.” Although it was still dark in the room, I felt myself expanding in the light of the voice, unfurling my response for its approval.
“But it isn’t all healthy growth. Quite a few diseased leaves here; not a few branches trampled and broken. I’m trimming you back now, so you’ll be clean.” And then I felt a mass of leafy speculation, all about who was wrong and who was right, drop away. I was alone now, a small shorn thing, with the voice.
“I am grafting you anew into me.” I was a small clean shoot in the side of a great tree.
Then I heard the new command. “Look around at the other branches, shorn and clean as you are. They are your brothers and sisters. Grow with them; grow in me. From now on you will bear my fruit.”
Then the service was ended and we were slowly moving back to the door through which we had entered. Arms were extended in greeting, some towards me, and as I reached out to take hands I felt like a small forest creature passing through a shady canopy; I was not back on ordinary earth, and yet the footing was sure enough. Outside the door was the familiar light of day. I could see the faces of those around me now; I did not know them, but they seemed to know me. It was as if, after a sudden blow to the head, I had woken up in hospital brightness, an amnesiac surrounded by the expectant faces of family members.
That is when my work began: a work of acquainting myself with the people to whom I now belonged, people who like me had all been touched in their most private place by the voice that spoke from the cross.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.