When I was a very young Christian (about 20 yrs. old in real life, but only 3 years in Christian life), I attended a church that promotes proactivity among singles who want to become married. They urged men & women to work towards marriage like it’s a goal, which is why I was on the husband hunt at every moment of every day around the time I met Pastor Dave & two very good-looking & Godly young men (who were totally marriage material).
That particular day was a lovely one – mostly because Sauce was my favorite restaurant, but also because I had a lot of reading to do for a ridiculously difficult class I was taking, & lunch seemed like the perfect time to get a little ahead.
I found a table outside that was perfectly isolated from the noise & commotions going on around the dining area and, because I hate it when there are people sitting behind me, I stationed myself so that I could see everyone & everything in the restaurant… including the table directly in front of me where three men sat talking.
The waiter set my food down in front of me and I settled in for an hour or so of studying. But as he headed back inside, he stopped to see if the three guys needed anything. They didn’t, but I absentmindedly watched him pass them, and as he did I overheard some comments about church & God & Jesus.
Most girls have it in their heads that chemistry is really important in romance.
I’m not most girls. I want a Godly man. Period.
I want the kind of man who knows God – the kind of man who not only knows about him, but knows Him. I find all other characteristics to be secondary. Finding a man who gives me butterflies would be nice, but not if he doesn’t know the Lord. In fact, it could be disastrous to find a man who gives me butterflies but doesn’t have his heart with Christ because the missionary dating field is littered with broken hearts, forgotten promise rings, & unhappy (& unequally yolked) marriages. If the butterflies come, great. If not, that’s okay. Butterflies are not necessary, & I’m convinced that they’re mostly self-induced anyways.
Roommate Amy thinks I’m crazy. One day, we were having a conversation that particularly frustrated her, and she said something to the effect of, “I don’t get it. You’re way more romantic than I am. How can you say that these romantic things don’t matter?”
I can say that they don’t matter because the things that most people (and especially girls) believe are romantic really aren’t romance at all. And they don’t matter.
Marriage can’t be built on the foundation of warm fuzzies. It can, however, be built on the foundation of Christ.
Anyways, that’s neither here nor there.
When I overheard these men talking about God the way that Godly men talk about Him, I couldn’t help myself from the butterflies. After all, they’d spoken a few of the magic words…
and I had been urged to be proactive.
When it was time for me to head back to class, I hadn’t gotten any studying done because I was too busy eaves-dropping. I packed my book away and drained my water glass while gathering my nerves. You see, I’m not a naturally outgoing person, but I am incredibly coachable, as evidenced by the two trophies I have in a box somewhere declaring to the world that I am The Most Coachable Player.
When a pastor tells me that I need to be proactive if I want to get married, you can bet that I’m going to be proactive.
That meant talking to them.
Adrenaline pumping, I stood up and gathered my belongings, put my game-face on, & headed straight towards them.
“Excuse me,” I interrupted them. “I was eaves-dropping on your conversation just now, & I was wondering which church you go to.”
I was definitely not shopping for a new church, but it seemed like a good place to start.
“It’s called The Crossing,” Dave answered, handing me a card.
“What kind of a church is it?” I asked.
“It’s a cult,” he said without missing a beat.
“A cult hmmmm?”
“Oh yeah. If you come, you’ll have to… (I don’t remember what he said here & I refuse to do it the misjustice of making something up. It was really clever & hilarious, though). We meet on Sunday nights at 6:00 in the Sovereign Grace building.”
“Oh cool,” I said. “I might come. I’m really active in The Cool Church, but since we meet in the mornings, maybe I’ll check you guys out. There really aren’t that many young people there & I feel out of place sometimes. I’m Katie, by the way.”
Dave introduced himself & Justin & Austin, then said something else pretty funny about cults.
“See you Sunday?” he asked as I headed for the parking lot.
“Yeah. I think so.”
I was both excited & skeptical about attending this new church. The day started off pretty normal. I helped out with Cool Church teen stuff during first service at their East Campus (I was committed enough to them to drive 45 minutes each way), then I listened to the sermon for second service. After church, Steve & Lori & I decided to be uncharacteristically social & attended something called Tucson Meet Yourself where there are foods from all over the world. I spilled Indian food on my pants because it was windy, and not having any time to go home & change, I pulled into the Sovereign Grace parking lot with the dried food making my jeans feel all stiff & uncomfortable.
As I climbed out of my car, I was pretty convinced that this church would be theologically misguided just like all of the others (The Cool Church were the only ones who knew anything, of course). Little did I know how the years I would spend with these people would chisel away at my own theological fallacies until I became one of the predestination-subscribing, un-hip, gospel of grace Ragamuffins I’d always looked down upon from my Armenian pedestal.
There were two men standing at the door to greet attenders. One of them was Dave and the other was a man I didn’t know.
“Hi I’m Allan,” the one I didn’t know said.
Dave interrupted before I could introduce myself.
“Wait. Don’t tell me,” he said, thinking really hard. “Katie!”
“I’m impressed,” I said. I worked really hard to try to make people feel welcome at the Cool Church, but I never would have been able to remember a name that way.
Dave gave me a warm hug & Allan directed me to his wife so that I would have someone to sit with.
I was a bit of a snob, so I took a table by myself, and Justin, one of the good-looking young men from Sauce, sat down with me & we talked for what seemed like a long time before the sermon started.
I don’t remember what the sermon was about. (UPDATE: after I posted this, I remembered later that Adam did the sermon that day & it was about not putting God into a box just so that we can understand Him) I do remember taking a few notes & scrutinizing every word to make sure that nothing too off track was happening here.
When I left, Dave and even a few of the other people hugged me & I went on my way. When I thought about that night over the next few days, I planned out my romantic path. Certainly the Crossing was home to several eligible bachelors, even if they didn’t believe all of the things I’d been taught that they ought to.
I was genuinely interested in The Crossing as well and emailed Dave to ask what I could do to help out and get involved. 3 years at a mega-church had taught me to look down on people who don’t pull their own weight, so it only made sense that I oughta find a way to help out at The Crossing if I was going to attend very often.
Dave’s response to my email was definitely unexpected, though. Generally, pastors jump at the opportunity to add a new volunteer. Dave, however, responded to my email by saying that it was okay for me just to come & be fed. I’m not gonna lie… at first I was a little offended. Why didn’t he want my help? Wasn’t I good enough? Were they being snobs just like all anti-cool churches had been depicted to me? Then, I started to think about it, & it was REALLY cool not to have to worry about putting together a study for the Jr. Highers or events at the park or snacks or anything. I could just show up at The Crossing & they weren’t interested in sucking me dry financially or energetically or otherwise. They were okay with pouring into me.
So I started attending Thursday night Bible studies & Tuesday night dinners. The dinners were actually the thing that most impressed me about the Crossing because Dave & his family would invite us into their home every week & cook for us and just talk to us about our lives. They didn’t make announcements on that we should all tithe more so that they could cover the costs of the meals. They weren’t inauthentically forcing spiritual conversations. It was as if they really just cared. I’d never experienced that.
So for about a year (or possibly more) I attended The Cool Church in the mornings & The Crossing in the evenings. But I started to see the big church bureaucracy steamrolling some of my friends, & I realized how completely uncaring my mega church could be. I was tired of my Christian life being boiled down to whether or not I could find a husband, and how good we would look together, and I started wanting to be more like Dave. I wanted to actually CARE. I slowly disentangled myself from the teen group, which was really difficult. I planned my last event with them & announced my plans to leave and serve elsewhere, and a couple of new people were seamlessly integrated in to take my spot. I held on tight to a few of my Cool Church ties, but let the rest of them completely dissolve.
I’d be lying if I gave you the impression that my theological disagreements with The Crossing were easy to overcome. They weren’t. In fact, there were a few times when I REALLY struggled with the issue of God’s sovereignty in the face of tragedy & disaster in this fallen world. I still struggle with it. But I remember the exact moment that I started to trust Dave & the other guys on Crossing leadership – even when it came to sovereignty.
We were at Bible study at The Colosseum. The guys had named their house that because of the stadium seating they’d built (a couch on a huge table can do wonders for a living room). We were covering the issue of whether God chooses us or we choose Him, & I fell on the side of us choosing God because I was all about personal responsibility. Dave was on the opposite side.
We were nearing the end of the hour, & I mostly was just being a snob & thinking about all of the reasons my brain could access for why it’s stupid to say that God chooses us… and more importantly that we DON’T choose Him. You see, I had been well-educated. I knew a bunch of verses to support my stance, and I mostly kept them to myself, but my brain was going Yeah, well what about… and what about… and that’s dumb because… Mostly I was ignoring the verses everyone else was citing because it seemed irresponsible to think about anything that wasn’t within my realm of control. Years of competitive sports had taught me that you only focus on the controllables. You worry about your job, & ignore the rest. It’s how you throw a rise ball w/ a runner on third, nobody out in the 7th inning of a tied game. You control what you can, & ignore the rest. Same with God. It’s how you make the spiritually tough choices – like not sleeping with the good-looking dirtbag who is the first guy to show interest in you in years. You control what you can and ignore the rest. That’s why it was offensive to me to say that I didn’t choose God. If I can’t control my choices, what’s left for me?
Then, something weird happened.
Dave started describing the beauty of a God who chooses us. He told me that his own heart was blackened with sin and that before God stepped in, he was sprinting full-speed toward Hell. It was the grace of a perfect God that lifted him from his path to damnation & put him on a new path. And he was so grateful to God for doing that, because he didn’t deserve to be rescued. In fact, he hadn’t even wanted rescuing or asked for it. God just chose him because He’s a good God.
Even reading that now, my eyes fill up with tears because prior to that moment, I didn’t get it. The Cool Church didn’t use “churchy” words like grace & sanctification. But in a matter of minutes, Dave showed me how beautiful grace really is. He showed me that God isn’t an abstract, distant deity. He’s my rescuer. He’s the God who suffered betrayal and crucifixion for an undeserving, self-righteous, softball snob who can’t even fathom the depths of her own sin.
Without Dave, the God I worship right now wouldn’t be nearly as huge, grace would just be another one of those uncool “churchy” words, & I wouldn’t ever have truly been cared about.