Tonight Josh and I decided to try out the Midweek service at Willow Creek Community Church. We were tardy so worship had already started.
Today I hadn’t managed to take a picture yet so I brought my camera and resolved to get that out of the way before we even sat down. I paused at the back of the sanctuary, so as not to disrupt or distract anyone, and before I could even remove my lens cap I was reprimanded. I think the woman came over to ask me a question but as soon as she saw my camera all she had to say was something like, “no pictures.” Then she walked away. Three things crossed my mind all at once:
- “In today’s age? I bet you someone is taking a picture with their iPhone right now.”
- “I think I might just leave now.”
I was flabbergasted at her audacity to ask me not to take a pictures. I honestly didn’t think cameras were forbidden anywhere but a few select places anymore, and I didn’t think Willow Creek (the land of escalators, a vast assortment of stage lights, electric guitars, and videographers) would be one of them. It is the age of the smart phone.
Her words struck a big, “do not touch” Kaia button. I don’t handle reprimanding very well. I take it personally.
I was utterly crushed. Now, you might be thinking, come on Kaia, grow some thick skin. Well, I didn’t run out of the room crying and remain sobbing in the bathroom for hours and that is big for me. Because, when I was a kid, if I EVER got reprimanded it was the end of the world. I would stow myself away in my room, broken to bits, for hours. Even when my parents repeatedly tried to coax me out of my crushing self-loathing I remained. Am I sensitive? I guess you could say that.
Now-a-days, I grit my teeth and let the parade of negative thoughts scream in my brain while remaining utterly silent on the exterior.
The rest of the service was tainted. I tried to sing along with the worship songs but I couldn’t even open my mouth. I tried to pray but I couldn’t focus. I tried to listen to the message and, at best, I retained scraps.
I thought about leaving. I had a somewhat sick, mild satisfaction when we did, indeed, exit the doors we had come through before “no pictures.” An evil part of me was thinking, “good, I hope you think you deterred me from church.” But, in fact, we just went upstairs to sit in the balcony because there was noticeably more space.
I literally spent THE REST of the service mulling over the whole situation. I went through all sorts of waves of emotions ranging from self-degradation, self-loathing, bitterness, anger, alienation, and nothing. I rehearsed several different versions of conversing with her over in my head, ranging from confrontation to blessing. In the end, I just let it go.
This whole experience shed a lot of light into a lot of dark places in my heart though. I was disgusted to find that, even though I grew up in the church and follow Christ faithfully, I was so quick to judge that woman and dismiss the church service. And because of that I suddenly stepped into the shoes of a unbeliever stepping into the church for the first time. I was horrified to think of that woman approaching a unbeliever that way. She was the only person that uttered a word to me the whole hour and a half I was there and the best she had was “no pictures.” Of course I know the church has problems and we are only people, but I know so many unbelievers who don’t know that and expect perfection of Christians. They, most likely, would not be forgiving or be willing to try a second time. And I wouldn’t blame them.
As my range of thoughts and feelings rampaged around there were a few clear and good ones.
I contemplated what I might have done differently if I were that woman, knowing what I know now. I would have either not bothered with the camera, I mean really, or I would have gone ahead and informed 24-year-old me, but I wouldn’t have kept my words so patronizing and curt; I would have explained why “no pictures” briefly and asked if I could help find some seating for the young couple. My raging defenses would have been tamed if she’d shown a little love within the interaction.
I also contemplated myself and how irrationally my head was spinning. It took some convincing and a little prodding from the Holy Spirit but I slowly realized that she was probably just trying to serve, to do her job, and if I were going to do mine and show the grace God so frequently gives me… well I would have to let the matter go, forgive and forget, and see if I can’t withstand crumbling underneath criticism so rapidly and thoroughly next time. I became painfully aware of my own fault and I think its name is pride.
So, here’s to moving forward 🙂
Until next time,
P.S. And now I have to go take a picture 😉 And… if you haven’t already, check out my 100th blog post HERE! There’s a little surprise waiting for you there (eh hem… a giveaway drawing).