My walk took me a different direction this time; a route that was longer and away from my lovely forest. I cheated a little and drove to this area. It’s closer to where my friend lives and 30 minutes away from my home. I walked next to a plowed field. Snow with brown stripes of dead grass made a peaceful scene. The stripes were like pathways that ended at a small pond that reflected the blue of the sky next to its white banks. Across the street from this property was a fenced area with two horses.
I stood for a bit in between the peaceful scenes and breathed in the cold air. My cheeks felt rosy and I could see my breath expelling into the air. A car drove past me. I probably looked odd standing there and staring at the colors and contrasts of the scenery, but I couldn’t help admiring God’s work.
A runner ran past and suddenly stopped. “What are you doing here?” It was my friend.
“I thought you were going to your writers group today.” I gave her a hug.
“I changed my mind. I’ve been so busy that I thought a good run would clear the head.” She said. “Were you coming to visit me?”
“Hadn’t thought about it, but I just wanted a different scenery, and with the snow just fallen, I couldn’t resist.” I said.
“Yes, I agree. The contrast of colors are lovely.” My friend looked troubled.
“I just spent some time online with someone who judged all the churches for one church’s bad behavior and then accused me of judging her, after saying churches are too judgmental.” My friend takes her church very seriously.
“A paradox.” I could feel a chuckle trying to rise in my throat. I wanted to be sensitive to my friend’s upset. If I laughed, she might not understand, but I think she needed to let it go. “Accept what we cannot change…”
My friend nodded, biting her lip, and fidgeting. “I could…um…cut short my run and make up some tea?”
I shook my head. “No. I wanted to walk a bit in your area before S.M. gets home from his short shift at work.”
“Are you going to church tomorrow?” She began to run in place.
“I don’t know. Tomorrow is going to be a stressful day. It’s probably why I am so moody about that person online. The topic of the sermon is about church dying. Sometimes, I just want to hole up in my house and never leave. People just keep wanting a perfect church. There is no such thing.”
I hugged her again and encouraged her to attend anyway. I continued my walk, watching the bobbing figure slowly grow smaller as my friend ran faster, disappearing eventually from view. I shuffled my feet along the ground, watching the birds dip and fly.
A report from a mission organization called, Back to Jerusalem, said that the western church spent more money in 2013 on dog clothing than on foreign missions. I am glad that my church is very much involved in missions. The state of the Western church bothers me, too, but I didn’t want to drag my friend down further by adding to her bad mood. Thirty more minutes later, and I walk back to my car that I left parked in front of a house that still has its Christmas decorations up.
Lord, help me be a loving example to the troubled church! Lord, help my friend let go of what she cannot change and help her change the things she can! In Jesus name, Amen.