Last week I worked at home midweek since I had to have blood drawn for the doctor in the morning. Vegas had the odds of me passing out at 45:1, but I stood strong. How do ya like me now, phlebotomists!
I actually then went to a nearby coffeeshop/restaurant to work and began to notice a curious thing: half the people around me seemed to be talking or reading about Jesus. An older lady near me seemed to be studying about prayer. A young lady with a diamond ring the size of Delaware was telling an older lady about working at a food pantry ministry. I thought one old guy was converting another but then I determined they were both Jesus-y already. And when a coworker later joined me, we were discussing Bible passages for our project energetically enough that the prayer-study lady asked us if we knew where a certain passage was and a businessman waiting for someone felt compelled to comment on what we were discussing. (He first asked us if we went to the local college, so he was all right by us–the phlebotomist had asked me too, so double score! for inheriting my mom’s mistaken-for-younger-ness).
Obviously I don’t have anything against people talking about Jesus. So I suppose I should I should have felt glad–or “blessed”–to have so many people talking about Jesus all around me. But I have to say, I mostly found it odd. It’s not bad, it’s just so very West Michigan. People in Oregon do not talk about Jesus in restaurants all that often, in my experience (with the clear exception of my pizza-joint-inhabiting youth pastor husband). Typical eavesdropping in an Oregon coffeeshop might be how the softball tournament went or how the fishing has been or if the spaghetti dinner raised enough for Herman’s cancer treatment. Rarely did I hear people speaking of their personal faith, let alone getting down to naming names like Jesus.
Does that make Oregon a less “blessed” place? I remember a conversation with someone at our old church the first time we visited after moving to Oregon. We tried to describe how it’s a different culture and he went on about how when he visited he could “feel the darkness.” I was borderline offended and I hadn’t even fallen in love with our town yet. I just wouldn’t put it that way. Yes, we encountered a lot of sad, difficult, and even dark things, and I believe Jesus can shine a light of hope and truth into those things. In terms of history and churchgoing, and maybe coffeeshop conversations, Oregon has “less Jesus” and West Michigan has “more Jesus.”
But is the whole earth filled with his glory or isn’t it?
There’s not more Jesus here than in Oregon. There’s just not. Because he’s everywhere, even if his people aren’t, or haven’t recognized him there yet.
So while there are a lot of good things about West Michigan, I wouldn’t say it is more blessed. It’s not some kind of Promised Land. It’s not free of deep, painful brokenness (believe me, life has not let us forget that this week). I don’t see this as necessarily a better place to live or raise a family just because if you talk about the Bible in a coffeeshop people around you will already know what you’re talking about. I think I’d rather have that conversation where it’s one small act of bright, rebellious light-shedding.
I’d rather hold one bright candle in a dark room than fall asleep under dull florescents.
Sometimes I miss the pagans.