Sunday, September 21, 2008

Of Church and Rattlers and Doors

Recently, I asked some of my coworkers to specifically pray that Mike would hear back from some of the jobs he's applied to in the next two weeks. What one coworker prayed was, "God, please close doors that need to be closed." I thought it was funny they would choose to pray that doors would be closed for a couple who has had no problem with open doors for a year and a half. But today we had a door-closing situation that was perhaps God's comical response.

We decided to give a particular church a chance, particularly for its small groups, although its service isn't exactly what we like. So I grudgingly trundled myself off to church this morning. Grudgingly because when I naively picture the church I will settle down in and raise children in, I picture this quaint Little House on the Prairie church where old farmers in plaid pat you on the back as you enter and women in denim jumpers offer me fried chicken and dumplings after church. This is not quite that church.

As we exited I-25, we didn't get very far on the off-ramp before we were in a traffic jam....a big jam of people all going to this one church. So we sat bumper to bumper for about 15 minutes on the I-25 off ramp. Then, being that Mike and I are brilliant, we saw a pull-off for a walking trail. We said, "hey, we'll just park here and walk the rest of the way." I wondered why more brilliant people hadn't thought of this.

So purse in hand and dress shoes on, I hopped down the path. Before long we noticed that between us and the church was a gulley, a barbed wire fence, a railroad track, another barbed wire fence, and fields of cacti and brambles. We walked a ways down the trail to find a place to cross (because I refused Mike's offer of belly crawling under the barbed wire fence in my white top). I stopped at the fence and reminded Mike of the "closed door" prayer, and wondered if this was a sign. He scoffed.

We jumped the fence, jumped the rails, jumped another fence, and headed up the hill to the church through poking and scratching brush. The hill turned out steeper and scratchier than planned. We finally trudged up to the church parking lot about 20 minutes later, sweating, puffing, with allergic hives breaking out all over Mike's legs, and with Mike sneezing madly.

We entered the church, now significantly late. And what did we see but a closed sanctuary door, and a sign saying "Service Is Full." We went down to the "cafe" area and it too was full. We went across to the overflow building. It too was full. There's nothing to convince you of a closed door like a closed door.

So we did what any sensible couple would do: Hiked the 20 minutes back to our car, bought a pumpkin spice donut at Dunkin Donuts, and walked at Ute Valley Park. Feeling the husbandly duty to "wash me with the Word," Mike asked what my favorite characteristic of God was. I responded that this week it is His surprises, mystery, and unexpectedness. He seems always to be throwing our plans and expectations off and surprising us with something we were never looking for. Mike's answer was the same.

We discussed how the two of us seem to sometimes choose silly, not recommended paths in life. How it makes life difficult. But how it's always an adventure. At this point on our walk, we had decided to taken a less travelled path that descended into a game trail and finally plopped us out onto a rock outcropping.

We scrambled up the rocks, trying to find a real path when Mike suddenly screamed like a girl. Like a really big girl with a deep voice. And simultaneously I heard the loud hiss of a rattlesnake's rattle. And simultaneously I saw Mike jump, arms flailing, several feet in the air. We ran like little screaming pansies in the other direction. I thought it was quite funny, being that I was behind Mike and not the one in imminent danger of death.

At this point I, still in my church dress shoes, started to get a painful blister on my foot. So Mike in the ultimate act of love, traded shoes with me. I put on his sensible hiking shoes he'd worn to church, and he donned my cute black flats. They made his legs look very nice and slender.

On our way back to the car, we reflected on how this day was very much like our lives. Unpredicatable, unconventional, difficult, but always a fun adventure. And we learned these things from it:
  1. Mike does not want to pursue a career as a snakehandler.
  2. I don't want to attend a church that involves traffic jams and hives.
  3. If at all possible, a girl should choose to marry a man with the same shoe size and pants size as her. (This has helped me out of numerous situations.)
  4. What a loving husband I have who would rather be seen in public wearing women's dress shoes than allow his baby to get a blister.


Tara said...

Wow! That is the best church story I have ever heard. I guess when Jesus will ask you why you went hiking instead of going to church you will have quite a story to tell him.

That story almost sounds made up, by the way!

I have never heard of a church having a sign that says--full. That must be one heck of a church!

Anonymous said...

:) the traffic jam exiting I-25 was caused by folks leaving the Air Force Stadium and heading over the restaurants there (TGI Fridays, Outback, Old Chicago, etc.). The 'full' sign was for the main auditorium, and as for the crowding, .... it's just been growing at a rapid case.... good news if you ask me. Not that any of this matters, but since I was 'in the know', I thought I'd share.

Amber said...

Thanks for sharing! I don't fault the church at all for my adventure--I'm glad it's doing so well, and it must just be a great place to be! :)

Rick said...

I just took the time to read your story through on your blog, and I found it out to be terrific. I was even wondering if it is a true one.

I also liked your conclusion, and above all, not blaming God for that surprising fate in that morning. Many people’s lives look the same as yours but they just could not go through and stumble on the way.

I could also picture the faithfulness of God in your adventure, and His grace that has bound you and your husband in a common sense of courage and energy. It is at last a proof that you will make it in life in Jesus’ Name no matter what the circumstances are.

Kate said...

I thought you were going to an AMIA community down there... No longer?

Amber said...

Hi Kate,
We were going to the AMIA church, but then it moved locations, about 30 minutes away from us. When the small group we had been attending there for about 6 months was disbanded, we decided we should find a church that is in the community we'd like to live in, and not 30 minutes away! But so far, we haven't found one that fits us as well. :(

Jon The Hart said...

I loved your story, but I wouldn't be telling the truth if I didn't admit that the whole time I expected for it to somehow tie into the word 'Churh' as it appears in the title...

So the bad news is that I was hung up on the typo, the good news is that I think so highly of you that I assumed it was intentional until the very end.

Amber said...

I had no idea that typo was there, Jon! You should win some prize. Do you know (I know this from my time as a copy editor) that typos more easily are missed the larger the text? (So typos are more likely in titles.)

Jon The Hart said...

That's intriguing, I will always use a size 48 font so that more of my typos go unnoticed.

What's fun, is that now that you've corrected the title, my comment will make no sense for your thousands of fans that scour your blog in the generations to come. It's best that way though, in fact I should have emailed you so that nobody else would know. A thousand apologies for tarnishing your image in any way. ;)