I’m drinking one of the best cups of coffee I’ve had in weeks, produced by a portable espresso machine with a woman named Mercy at the helm, who spontaneously sets up shop in different locations around my hometown. Thank God for Google Maps.
The coffee’s great, and getting better—Mercy’s perfecting her art—but it’s the conversation that really bubbles and steams. I’m surrounded by men and women coming and going, a web of loosely associated friends and acquaintances radiating this morning from Mercy’s center. The conversations swirl around me, from high school basketball to the value of a college education, to goat farming to the difference between a Certified Nurse-Midwife and a Certified Professional Midwife. Someone mentions a book by Naomi Wolf that we’re passing around, which morphs into the idea that it makes no earthly sense to want to be a writer…unless, that is, you’re compelled. A woman (the goat farmer) gets a text from a friend, “What are your views on eschatology?” One side of her mouth tips up. “Interesting challenge,” she says, “answering that in a text.”
I wave goodbye after about twenty minutes to head home to my teenaged sons. They should be rolling out of bed about now, getting their breakfasts and cracking open their books. I have some other stops first, and I’m completely trusting them to follow the routine we’ve established in the decade and a half we’ve lived and homeschooled together. I know they’ll do what they need to do, and I’m pretty sure they’ll do it for the rest of their lives. Although, I also know, God gives no guarantees except Himself, and I’m okay with that, too.
Only later do I think, “I had a pretty conventional upbringing. How did I end up here, living a life most would consider outside the box, associated with others willing to do the same?” It’s a world of parachurch ministries and spiritual entrepreneurs, homeschoolers and home churchers. The kind of people who don’t say Why, but rather, Why not? Then I realize: my parents primed me for this. They were fiercely loyal to God, devoted to following Jesus and to serving others, but they weren't really churchy.
With Bible-believing parents who raised me, literally, outside the church box, I guess it’s not so strange I find comfort in a diverse group of Christians. But I have other worlds I move through each day, some more conventional, some less. My other worlds include those of my husband...federal government employee, anthropologist, member of Boise's sort of underground longboarding scene. There is also the crazy-fabulous, alone-together community of writers I belong to, and there is the Baptist Church (yes, Baptist) my family recently joined... I could go on.
Inside or outside the box doesn't really describe my experience. This life is like a huge Venn Diagram and I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. With all the worlds we're expected to move in and out of, we can start to feel fractured and a little schizophrenic. I think the key to remaining whole is to remember this: The intersection of our worlds doesn't happen through us, but through Christ. He draws diverse and many-faceted people together at His center, and invites us in to enjoy each other's company. Oh taste and see that the Lord is good...
We discover God’s mercy in surprising places. Drink it in where you find it, pour it out where you can...and enjoy!