Leaving the Garden of Eden
“Everybody has strange things that mean things to them. You couldn’t help it.”
When anyone thinks of church, we have this specific idea and image that comes to mind. Whether you grew up in a church or not, we all have an idea of what church looks like. Most of the time, these ideas and images are associated with our first experiences. So goes the phrase, first impressions last the longest and you only get one shot.
I’ve been working in or attending churches as long as I can remember.
Some of my first memories are in the physical building of a church. I have one distinct memory of being around 3 or 4 years old and sitting in the classroom next to the nursery. We were singing songs with our teacher, Miss Vicki, and learning about how the Wise Man built his house upon a rock, rather than sand. Like my usual self, though, I was distracted and already looking over at the nursery. I was ready to play hide and seek. There were cubbies in the next room and I was ready to crawl into one at the bottom and put stuffed animals in front of me so I couldn’t be found when my parents came in to find me. However, I had been caught. “Jonathan. I need you to pay attention and sing with us, okay?”
I have a ton of these little memories where I was playing in the church, learning little hand signs for different songs, participating in youth group, and learning every nook and cranny in the church to find the best hiding spots. All to be at the next opportunity to claim the best hiding place when my friends and I would be playing. This was a time where God’s house was my Garden of Eden. It was my place of exploration, a safe haven, and it was full of mystery and awe. My guess is that I’m not the only one with memories like these.
Flash forward 25 years later, and I’m working in the halls of a church but the building doesn’t have near the amount of mystery that it once did. Half the time, I’m walking into the doors of the church anxious about what lays in waiting once I open my office door. Who has passed away today? What did I say wrong in service this past week? Or another phone call with a suggestion on how to keep the youth excited about church despite our ever-growing masses of those leaving church.