"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Searching for Steeples

I found myself riding shotgun this morning as my husband drove us home from a few days of babysitting our new grandson. My heart was a little heavy as our early departure didn't afford me the "sugar" I normally get before heading out. And so for distraction, and maybe a little comfort, I reached for a particular devotional book I had stashed in my bookbag and was sitting at my feet: Peace of Heart. Upon reading the day's selection, I sensed in my spirit to look up and take notice. As I did, we passed a church on my right, and before I could even begin to guess its particular affiliation, another one loomed on my left. It's huge size and close proximity to the interstate gave it an almost ostentatious look. But both were houses of worship, both standing high and mighty, erect and strong; both on the outskirts of town, and both waiting for their early morning parishioners to arrive in their "Sunday best." So I began to offer up prayers for the congregations, ministers and lay persons who would be gathering very shortly for worship. I prayed their hearts would be warmed and that God would reveal Himself fresh and new to them this morning. And as I did, I found myself earnestly searching for the next steeple to rise in the distance as we headed into the metropolis of Atlanta. But where there was spire after spire on numerous buildings, and although we did pass a church van from Beulah Missionary Baptist Church picking up its congregants, there were no "steeples" to be seen.

Oh, yes, I know that Atlanta is filled with churches. Small, medium, and mega ones. While searching with my eyes, I thought of places such as First Baptist, Mt. Paran, North Point Community, and Passion. But where were the churches here in the very heart of the city? Had all moved out and away? Or were they there and had just been consumed by all the towering buildings. And then, after miles of searching, there it was. Unable to take a shot with my camera, I captured the startling and unforeseen picture in my heart: a small, weathered church building tucked unpretentiously within the shadow of Grady Memorial Hospital -- smack-dab downtown.

Simply known as "Grady," it's the largest hospital in the state of Georgia and the public hospital for the city of Atlanta, serving a large number of her low-income patients. But it has also boasted a few more prominent subjects: Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind, died there after being hit by a drunk driver. The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, also saw his final days there. And supermodel Niki Taylor entered its level 1 trauma center after being in a car accident and underwent 50 surgeries. Grady also takes its place historically as the current facility was built as a segregated institution -- and remained that way for years.

So, how appropriate that this little worn, unassuming church would be resting in her wings. But more importantly, how befitting that hanging in bold blue letters -- (they may even have been neon!) -- high across the steeple, which was still midget to its surroundings, were the life giving words, "JESUS SAVES." How could I not be affected by the stark irony of it all?

My mind went back to my devotional some miles back now. I was reading of St. Francis of Assisi, a man who gave up incredible means and affluence to follow God in abject poverty. Who at one time found the sight of lepers so detestable that he would go miles out of his way to avoid them and then still hold his nose only to later embrace and kiss them. And these were the words I had read and the prayer I had prayed: "You alone can cut through the chorus of voices that threatens to deafen my soul with empty promises and false hopes. Your words alone can make my soul burn within me. Speak to me." Indeed, He had.

I bless you, little church, as you sit among the indigent and poverty-stricken and offer true hope. I am convicted and moved by your example.

Just an ordinary moment...


Dottie said...

Nancy, you are a wonderful writer. I'm so proud of you. I knew immediately the large "beside the interstate" church to which you referred, and I could visualize your thoughts! Dottie

Joey said...