Monday, April 30, 2012

Going Back

It was Christmas Eve morning and my last day of work for a big bank in New Orleans. Mike's seminary degree had been completed many month before and we were ready to move forward, finally.

I had an exit interview at noon. They usually lasted about an hour, but my boss had asked me to return to the office until 5:00. On Christmas Eve. On my last day of work. After the exit interview. No one had ever gone back to the office after an exit interview in my whole three years working there. The exit interview was the official end of employment, keys turned in, final paycheck delivered. The last thing I wanted to do was go back.

So I told her I'd be back, and then I left after the exit interview to get on with Christmas Eve and the rest of my life. I didn't want to be a banker anymore. I was ready to be a pastor's wife. (As you can see, I wasn't even ready to behave like a Christian.)

Dena Dyer, with The High Calling, posted this on Facebook on behalf of The High Calling this morning:

Good Monday morning! Dena Dyer here. Today, I close a chapter as I end a position I've held at a non-profit for almost two years. It has me thinking: How can we end a job well? Not burn bridges? And show our integrity and faith by the ways we serve, even as our hearts and bodies move on?
And my friend and colleague, Lori Hatcher, posted this testimony today about integrity and how knowing the right to do and not doing it is sin. Lori, too, had to go back.

Yesterday, we had our monthly Hispanic worship service. It's the one Sunday each month we're asked to go back to church for an evening service. It's the one where I get to be the foreigner. I wear the earphones that get uncomfortable well into a sermon preached in Spanish. I need translation. I sing unfamiliar and unintelligible (to me) words and struggle to worship authentically anyway. During the fellowship afterwards, I ask of every foreign food being portioned on my paper plate, "Es caliente?"  I've long since given up on, "Que es esto?" I venture into my awkward Spanish. The whole thing's a little ridiculous, like working late Christmas Eve after you're no longer an employee.

Yet Spanish speakers from the Dominican Republic, Peru, Mexico, and other countries choose routinely to overcome these obstacles in order to be part of the body of Christ at CWO Church. Some are bi-lingual, but many are not. It's clearly more work for them than finding a Spanish-speaking service. I know this because once a month I go back in order to be the foreigner. I know now that they suffer through translation, static-y headsets, and singing hymns and worship songs with foreign words. Yet they keep coming back.

Last night, I looked around and noticed that the only Americans who came back were the ones scheduled to sing, usher, or were staff members. It made me sad, but I understand. It's hard work to go back and do what's foreign. Although I've rarely missed an Hispanic service, I'm guilty of not always wanting to go back. 

Last night I thought of what my presence might be saying to my Latino brothers and sisters who can't understand my words:

I love you, I'm committed to you, and you're worth the effort.
I want to empathize with what it's like to depend on a translator.
I can be at home here, even when I don't have the native tongue advantage.
I can [go back and] do what's foreign to me [through Christ who gives me strength].

Going back is always worth it, whether to work or to church. Not just to have integrity, not just to do the right thing so as not to sin, and not just because I'm a pastor's wife and I have to. I want to keep going back for two reasons: because I still struggle with wanting to and because the ways of Jesus, very often, still feel foreign to me.

So I'm going back to counting, too:

# 556 - 571
~daughters that hug
~a clean house
~morning coffee and strawberries
~10 days of self control
~eight glasses of water, exercise, and eating better
~perspective gained from Guatemalan images
~grace, even though He gave us His Word
~mountain tops and valleys
~text messages from Wayne
~Auntie Lynne's faith-full fight
~forgiveness when I don't go back and do the right thing
~that it happens less and less often
~His ever-present help
~going back

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