From the time I started school I was prepared for the end times. When the beast spoke (the Pope) I would need to hide from the church authorities, government and even family members. If I did not make it as a chosen member of Jesus’ bride and I was left on the earth when Armageddon began, I would need to know how to avoid the last 7 1/2 years of God’s final wrath on the ungodly and Babylon (who was anyone not in our church, basically the entire human population). So I grew, feeling protected inside the boundaries of a property on State Street. I feared the world and the people outside, blissfully unaware of how much I actually should have feared those inside.
Revelation 18:2-4 …’And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.’ And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
It was important to know the truth. The truth about the Godhead and Baptisms and Laying on of Hands and Resurrections and Hell and the Devil. But most of all, it was important to know where I was and where I was not. I absolutely had to know who Babylon was so that I did not become part of her. And I needed to know who the Beast was so I didn’t accidentally worship the Beast. And so they told me about the Pope and the number 666 and the strange women, mystery Babylon. And this how I grew up afraid of them…the Christians.
When I was 7 we spent a series of Sundays visiting other churches. I was assigned to two single sisters, one who had a son a few years older than me. On this particular Sunday morning we went to the big Catholic Church in Boise. They told us that we’d be going to observe the Beast. I didn’t really want to mess with something that God didn’t want to mess with himself but I was a child and had no choice but to go to see what a Beast looked like. When we stepped into the belly of the beast…aka as the inside of the church…I didn’t feel afraid. I actually felt peace. I didn’t understand why the music was so boring and asked where the drums were and why did we have to do so many funny things like kneel. And then we were following the people to the front and the man in the funny robe gave me something to eat that was dry and yucky. And then…it was over. We were on our way to the park and I was glad to be rid of the beast.
I went to a few different churches over the course of my childhood. My grandparents took us to the church across from their house. I liked it because I sat next to my grandfather and he talked to me the entire time and I sure did love that man. My aunt took me to a church one Easter Sunday and I enjoyed my first Easter egg hunt, a fact that did not make my father happy with his sister. And then there was the Bretheren church. This church is where I was dedicated to serve the Lord at 18 months. It was my favorite place.
When I became an adult I worked for a small software company started by two very strong Evangelical Christians. The vast majority of my co-workers were Christian. They assumed I was Christian and I never bothered to tell them differently. I couldn’t understand how they had such a strong faith in God and followed the Spirit and talked about Jesus like he was their friend…yet they were in Babylon. The more I was around these people, the more I doubted what I was told about them. It just didn’t add up.
In 2007 I left the church in Portland. It rocked my world and I was left alone. Well, except for a sister…she wouldn’t take my explanation and demanded to know just why I was not going to church. I finally agreed to meeting her for tea, which changed the course of both our lives. For the first time in my life I developed a real friend and began to seek truth without the permission of my father, my husband or my pastor. Eventually our husbands left, along with several families and we developed a home church. This lasted for about 18 months before politics and the overwhelming pain from prior abusive spiritual experiences tore the community apart again. And that is when Abba decided to show me what a Christian looked like.
The story of how I met Angie would take a book chapter but it was definitely a God thing. She is one of my best friends. Ever. And she has patiently, over the last 6 years, shown me that Christians, although misguided, are not to be feared. The hardest part is that she lives 2 hours away and like me she works and has teenagers and a husband and a life…and so we don’t get to see or talk as much as we I would like. The ache…the ache of living so far away is overwhelming at times.
I’m still friends with people from the church. I consider them a significant part of my faith community. The sister who demanded answers, she is one my best friends…my big sister. And I love this community as much as I did growing up. But I felt Abba telling me to keep seeking. So, I sought.
The answer was found in my backyard…well nearly. One day my neighbor sent a message on Facebook. “Would you like to come to our small group?” A step of faith for her and me. And I had no idea how I’d drag the husband into it who avoids anything remotely “church” or “Christiany”. But we took that first step that led us down the sidewalk to the next cul-de-sac. We timidly walked into her house and left feeling like the best thing had just happened. We looked at each other and exclaimed, “We can have friends. As a couple, that has NOTHING to do with where we came from.”
9 months. 9 months of getting to know our neighbors and other couples from the church we loosely call home. The group make-up changed over the summer and this fall we found ourselves meeting 2 new couples. I was upset at first because I liked the first group. But I know now how much Abba prepared our hearts for this group…because he knew just how much we’d need them when the hard times hit.
And I can’t explain how, one night in an empty restaurant bar, Abba ended the fear placed into my young heart so many years ago. As I shared my fears and pain and vulnerability I finally realized Christians were not scary people. No, the Christians…Christ followers…they were my sisters and they loved my Jesus just as much as I do. And I desperately need them. I need the light and salt they have. I need the Abba that they know. I need their insight into how the Spirit moves and breathes and blows through the air. And I need, more than anything, the sweet, simple friendship they offered me. Without judgment or standard of dress and worship or the right theology. They showed me love. They were, that night, the hands and feet and ears and eyes of my Jesus. And their husbands reached out to mine and after sometime he reached back. And he too, realizes, that we have friends. Friends that Abba placed in our lives.
I grew up believing that one day God would call his people out of Babylon. And I still believe that. But I’m beginning to believe that I have no idea what Babylon is and no clue what that scripture means…but these people, these Christians, in a community Baptist church in Hillsboro…they are his followers and they have listened to the heart of the Savior and have loved us and are helping us to heal. And if that is what it means to be called out…Abba, keep calling us out.