A few weeks ago, before my feisty mother graduated to heaven, she wanted to visit the church on the same block as the Assisted Living Facility (ALF) she had recently moved into. To her, it just seemed like less hassle than rushing every Sunday morning to get ready to attend her regular church about 6 miles away. Whereas it used to take Mama a half-hour to get showered, dressed and primped, at age 92, it took her every bit of three hours.
And then she might or might not have on shoes.
Her other motive was to convince the fine church folks next door to resume their pre-COVID practice of bringing church to the ALF residents (my mother called them “inmates”) so they wouldn’t have to go anywhere a ‘tall.
So being an obliging daughter (Ha!), I picked Mama up in my car one Sunday morning – with her complaining the whole time about the silliness of us not walking over there in the 95 degree heat – and drove her the 30 second loop from one driveway to the next.
I wasn’t sure where to park, until I spotted the row of empty spaces marked “Visitor” beneath the canopy of old oaks lining the property. So I pulled into a designated Visitor spot, turned off the car, opened my door, and stepped out directly into something white and crunchy nestled into the overgrown grass.
Gulp. It was a skeleton. A dead thing. I was standing right in the middle of the remains of some poor possum that had apparently kicked the bucket in visitor parking and dry rotted down to the bare bones. Mama thought it was a hoot. She had to remind me of the old joke: “What is Beethoven doing right now? Answer: Decomposing.”
After my initial EWWWW/high knee hopping reaction, I started feeling sad. For the dearly departed possum, yes, whose wife must’ve wondered why he never came home for dinner, but also for the church. The church with apparently such low expectations for visitors ever joining them that they were unaware that their deserted visitor parking lot with ankle-high overgrown weeds hosted an animal grave yard.
It takes a critter, what, at least a month to go from fully functional status to skull and crossbones? Probably longer. My goodness, how long had it been since anyone visited the church?
My suspicions were confirmed when after the service we searched the lobby in vain to find something – anything – listing basic church info like the pastor’s name, church beliefs, and activities offered. I had to ask three different people before I found out if they had a women’s group or not. The first two weren’t sure because it wasn’t written anywhere and was never announced from the pulpit.
For some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to mention the corpse outside to the fine folks inside – and they truly were fine folks, very friendly and welcoming. Like maybe visitors were a lovely novelty that they hadn’t experienced in a long time but could learn to like with practice.
Anyway, the whole episode got me thinking about low expectations. How many of us Christians aren’t terribly optimistic about sharing the Good News of Jesus with the lost today – especially with cancel culture at full tilt against many espousing Christian principles?
We expect to be rejected or ridiculed or simply ignored so we don’t make that extra effort to explain when they ask how we’re doing that we have the Holy Spirit helping us through this incredible hardship or that there’s good reason for the Jesus-joy that lives within us despite depressing circumstances surrounding us.
From the lost world’s perspective, our faith as Christ-followers is inexplicable.
So to avoid the eye rolls or glazed stares or worse, we cave to our low expectations and simply keep the Good News to ourselves.
It’s easier that way, right?
But I don’t want to feel like a pile of dry bones. And that’s what my dynamic testimony will shrivel up to be if I keep keeping my eternal hope to myself. Nothing more than a skeleton. A dead thing. The framework of what used to be living and vibrant but is no longer viable.
So I’m working on building back up my expectations. Papa God has LOTS more people He wants to welcome into His Kingdom Church through me. His visitor parking is pristine and lobby is chockfull of information about His myriad of services offered.
Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if He didn’t offer a box of Godiva upon entrance and a massive covered dish dinner after every worship service.
In other news …
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Julie Blackmore says
I went to a sweet 16th birthday celebration last night…I mentioned to the family who was hosting the party (unbelievers)…”Oh my goodness, (as if I was never one to drink in the world before coming to Christ Jesus) is so and drinking?”. I probably came off judgmental introspect…but this person hardly ever drinks, so when I saw my bad habits manifest in someone else (unrelated to me)…I was shocked…this person was drunk…and she reminded me of so much of my old ugly self that I probably came across as judgmental but when in fact my heart was breaking for them…yet, society looks at the outward appearance….whereas God looks at our heart. 1 Samuel 16:7….so while you are working on building up your expectation for God’s kingdom…I will be building the love of God within myself for others for the Kingdom of God….I am grateful that your Mom is in heaven….but I hurt for you!!!!
I hear you, Julie. I hate it when I come across judgmental, but I hate it worse when I’m so accepting that no one knows that I object to a bad behavior. Hard to find the fine line, isn’t it? I love that scripture from 1 Samuel you cited – sure underscores the point about expectations. Hugs to you, girlfriend!
Patti Jo Moore says
Oh, I LOVE this post! (Okay, with the exception of thinking about the deceased possum, may it rest in peace—or pieces?).
Such an excellent reminder that as Christians, we need to share that Good News, not keep it to ourselves! May I look for more ways to let others know about His love and peace—our world needs it more than ever right now.
Thank you SO much for sharing with us – – your words (and humor) are such a blessing!
Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo
Ha! It’s always hard to know how heartbroken to feel over rodents and marsupials and maybe reptiles too, isn’t it, Patti Jo? Hugs to you, dearest sister!