If I ever were to write an autobiography, I think I'd title it, "Meeting God in the Public Restroom". Or perhaps more aptly, "Cowering from God in the Public Restroom", because most of my childhood experiences in those places center around me fervently praying that God would not show up and speak to me in some petrifying way like He did to Samuel in the temple. This was literally my biggest fear as a child, and because of that, also an example of His lavish kindness because if this was my biggest fear I had a pretty wonderful childhood (I did).
The place I was most fearful of God speaking to me was the public restroom at church. Not the one stalled one, because it was connected by a door to the children's nursery and it was always noisy. There I felt safe (albeit worried that a small child might open the door at any moment). No, it was the multi-stall restroom at the back of the sanctuary that terrified me. If I walked in and it was empty, I would wrestle with how badly I had to go and therefore how much I was willing to risk a Samuel-style intervention. A call on my life I couldn't escape. A terrifying death sentence to my dreams and hopes and plans I began setting in place as a five year old. This was surely going to happen in a public restroom, and most likely the one at church.
I have been thinking a good deal lately about the call on my life. I have found myself envious of people who seem so sure of their call, of their vocation, of what God would have them do with this wild and precious life they have. I had to laugh at the irony of my envy, when I've avoided God's call for so many years, to my bladder's detriment at times. But now I worry that I've missed my chance, that the call was there and waiting for me in those places I avoided for so long, so God must have moved on elsewhere.
For the past four years, I have been a part of a group of people who call themselves Church of the Apostles. We are a church, a place with pews and an altar and a playground and yes, public restrooms. But we are also a people who I have journeyed alongside, people who have invited me into their homes and their lives, children who I love as if they were my own, friends who have cried with me through jobs and relationships and mid-20s angst. I have been, for most of these four years, the odd one out: I am single and in my 20s, whereas everyone else is either a parent or grandparent, living into the trappings of family life. I had a dear friend visit with me once, and solemnly say afterwards, "Nancy-Page, do you ever want to be married? Because you'll never find someone at that church." And it's true, it is not the church to come to for a date (unless it's with a three year old to get donuts and in that case, I'm swimming in opportunity). From appearances, it is not a place where I would fit in.
And yet. Today was one of the most difficult Sundays in our life as a church family. We found out our beloved pastor and his wife will be answering a call to go to a church in Charleston, South Carolina. I have cried off and on all weekend about it, gone to hold babies and eat fajitas with church friends just to be near them, to grieve together. And when I pulled up this morning to church, all I wanted to do was hug everyone. People I've never hugged. Every child that got within arm's length of me. Every grandfather-type who so much as looked my way was forced into an awkward embrace. I so believe that God is calling Terrell and Teresa to this new season, and I again found myself wondering, as Terrell spoke of this call today, what if anything God would ever call me to in this life.
And then I looked around.
My dear friend is right-- there is no reason for me to be at this church. There are plenty of places with more people my age, more social activities, more opportunities prospective dates. But with all the certainty my heart can muster I will say that the one call I have ever felt in my life was to this church. There have been many times over the past four years I have doubted it-- I have certainly considered what more attractive, comfortable options might exist elsewhere. But I cannot quit this place or these people, because it is my place, and they are my people. I have seen God work in ways that only He can move. I have felt His presence and experienced His goodness. I have known that this is where He has called me.
As I looked around this morning, my eyes uncomfortably filling with tears, I felt a welling of gratitude and love for these faces and these people that would have burst open the Hoover Dam were it situated in my heart. And as I slipped into the restroom to grab a tissue, I looked around to find every stall empty. And I said, in a timid and teary voice, "thank you", to the One who called me here.