Whenever they see me among the crowds, they call out to me by name, greet me with a knowing smile and wrap their arms around my shoulders. Satiating a growing curiosity, they ask about recent trips, inquire about the kids; ask what they can do to help me. While others wait patiently for a personal portion of hospitality, they remain steadfast in their genuine interest, eyes locked through each of my sentences. Women who have learned the fine art of pastoring, and I’m not talking about Christians greeting newcomers on Sunday.
I’m talking about the women who wear sophisticated black jackets and stand on their feet all day behind makeup counters. They tell me that they know more about eyeliner and hydrating lipstick than they know about Jesus.
Our interactions have become more than sales transactions. I can’t shop anymore without seeing the way Jesus loves people standing beside cash registers.
They don’t know it but I’ve prayed through each of their hardships as they’ve revealed them. For one of them: the brutal season of walking through stages of healing from a recurrence of cancer, wearing hats to cover up the baldness framing a beautiful face. For another: the slow recovery process and finding new rhythm after hospitalization from a heart problem.
Last week, I was asked the same question in separate private conversations over glass cabinets. “What does your husband do?”
After I repeated, my husband is a pastor who is the equivalent of the CEO for a church planting movement in North America, one of them admitted to knowing very little about Jesus or religion while another asked me what I do in the church.
I had to think about that before I answered.
For me, doing church is an illustration in slothful living, not laziness but mindless busyness, a check on a list for your week. Something expected while the heart has become detached, like the child’s art hanging on your refrigerator door for months that is now commonplace and invisible to your senses. Upon first glance, it took the centerpiece of daily living and then you became numb to the transcendent beauty every time you opened the door and fed yourself.
I told her that I don’t do church anymore, I try to be the church to people. I write words that help people think differently about life, offer consolation to people who are hurting through expectant prayer, mentoring, coaching, and speaking. And I go to church because I need to experience Jesus in community to understand the riches of his presence.
In essence, I told her I change the artwork often because my soul needs perspective.
I handed her a business card when she asked me for it. She held it up between each of her forefingers perched underneath her chin. With a grin on her face she commented, “I always knew there was something different about you, you have a presence about you that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but now I know what it is.”
It is often in the moments you least expect, like accepting change from a sales clerk in your cupped hand, that God reveals the mystery of himself. If we’ve only known His presence in the posture of praise from the pew, we have condensed his power into the constraints of our own thinking and made him as small as the contents of our experience.
As I stood behind the counter at the pharmacy last week, the car idling with my son scrolling on his phone in the passenger seat, the pharmacist began telling me his story of heartbreak while he was scouring shelves for my prescription. He admitted he is reinventing himself when he should be retiring because someone was unjust in their decision making. As he handed me a white paper sack filled with precious contents, he asked me a question, “What does your husband do?”
I can’t do church anymore because I am compelled to be the church to a world who needs the hope of Jesus.