This summer, I watched a lot of “Four Weddings,” a TLC show in which four brides attend each other’s weddings and rate them based on different categories like dress, venue, and food. In the end, the bride with the highest overall score wins a honeymoon for her and her partner. A pet peeve that I developed during my bored hours of watching was overly picky brides. Countless women would give another bride lower points for her dress because she doesn’t like ballgowns or lower points for her winter wedding because she prefers spring time. I decided that I would be a terrible contestant on the show because I would give everyone the same score. Who cares if you’re a cat person and therefore didn’t like that the groom’s golden retriever was the ring bearer? All that matters is that the couple enjoyed a special day with their loved ones and it was worthwhile.
Yesterday, my housemates, our site coordinator, and I visited a local church, as we are doing every Sunday for the next few weeks so that we can have a little taste of our many options here.* To be honest, I was uncomfortable from the start. There was nothing wrong with this church, its members, its leadership team, or its worship style. Yet, I still found myself a little anxious because it was different than what I see as my ideal worship experience.
One of the most powerful lessons I learned in my four years of college is that worship does not have to be at 11:00AM every Sunday morning with people who live on the same side of town as you, with a predictable order of hymns, text reading, movements. This style of worship continues to be the one that makes me feel the most at home, but I have been more conscious about making an effort to open myself up to new experiences in worship. This Sunday, I think it was the combination of still not being completely confident in a new city and introverted exhaustion that brought about my mental shutdown. Typically, church events are some of the few occasions during which I feel confident in my own abilities and can truly relax. Yesterday was not one of those times for me. I didn’t know the words to the songs, there was no convenient bulletin for me to follow along with, and the food served to us following the service was not a casserole. By the time we made it back to our house, I was in a terrible mood. I was frustrated with myself for not appreciating worship and fellowship as much as my housemates did.
After some time trying to figure out what specifically went wrong that morning, I realized the only wrong thing that happened was with myself. I was so focused on one style of music not being my preferred style that I forgot to see the beauty in my friends’ faces as they sang along with the praise band. I was so focused on trying to eat with unfamiliar utensils that I forgot to watch the joy of my housemate who was finally able to speak her mother tongue to other native speakers. I forgot that community does not mean that everyone is going to be super thrilled with what is happening all of the time, and that’s okay. I had momentarily turned into one of the bridezillas from Four Weddings who wants everybody’s wedding to be just like her own wedding. Living in intentional Christian community means that these amazing people I live and serve with are my family and, just as I want them to be happy alongside me, they deserve for me to be happy alongside them.
To end this somewhat serious reflection, here is a quote by Oscar Wilde that I found through a 20 second Google search, but is a new personal favorite.
“Selfishness is not living as one wishes, it is asking others to live as one wishes.”
*Thank you so much to the churches that have already welcomed us with open arms to experience worship with them. It really has been meaningful to know that people who have never met my housemates and me are praying for us and going out of their ways to make our transition into this new time in our lives as ~flawless~ as possible.