This really just happened

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This morning I was sitting in my office minding my own business, which today meant watching a BBC documentary on YouTube while catching up on emails. I was interrupted by a young black teenage girl in my doorway: “I need someone to talk to. God told me to come in here.”

Who can argue with that?

What followed felt much like some of the scenes from the movie Precious  with Mariah Carey, except, perhaps, if the movie had to be re-written for a PG-13 rating. Tye was her name, and she was smart and clear-headed, but came from a home rife with absent fathers, poverty and mental illness. While we both grew up in the same zip code, if I tried to compare my childhood to hers, we’d all get whiplash.

All I could do was listen and offer tissues for her tears. Throughout the next hour I only spoke a handful of times and only tried to be sympathetic and non-anxious. Tye had thought about acting out just to get to go to juvenile detention and away from her mom, but decided against it. (I told you she was smart) She had two older sisters who were sympathetic but unable to help- one was serving in Afghanistan and the other had her own child. She was homeschooling herself (!)

Throughout our talk, I really came to like Tye. I think she was just as surprised as me that she was in my office pouring her heart out. I really wanted to see her do well. She was on her way to Taco Bell to pick up an employment application, excited by the possibility of taking care of herself. She didn’t expect anything from me and even refused when I offered a lift to Taco Bell.

In the end, all I could really say was that I’d be happy to meet with her whenever she wanted. I promised to be a friendly face if she ever wanted to come here for church.

I really hope she’ll take me up on either of those offers.

I am a Christian because…

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Rachel Held Evans asked on her blog recently for people to comment on why they were a Christian. There were some great responses, including Ernie Bufflo. Feeling inspired, I couldn’t help but add my own story to the pot.

Sunset Behind Oak Tree

photo © 2011 Philipp Antar | more info (via: Wylio)

My faith, like Rachel’s and “Ernie’s,” is tremendously a reflection of when, where and to whom I was born. I recently had to dig through church records to find the date of my baptism: March 24, 1985, not even 6 months after I was born. It was written in the records as nonchalantly as a weather report. Without knowledge or consent, adorable infant Cortney became adorable infant Christian Cortney. And there were scattered clouds with a high temperature of 55 and low of 40. 
Except this post is about why I am a Christian and there’s a big difference between an acorn and an oak tree. Like my infant baptism, I’ve come to know Christ without my consent. Through friends that filled a need I didn’t know I had, through familiar hymns  that bring me tears and through snot-nosed kids I traveled around the world to “teach,” Jesus shone through to me.
At some point a few years ago, I began to believe that God’s will for me included more joy and happiness than I could possibly create for myself. I can’t defend this idea except for the the fact that I’ve yet to be proven wrong. This doesn’t mean that tragedy is taken out of the equation, but  as inspired by the cross, it does give me the strength to weather the storm and come out the better for it.

I used to tell people that I didn’t know if my faith begat my beliefs or my beliefs begat my faith and I’m okay with that. I champion critical thought thoroughly, like my liberal arts alma mater taught me. And I think religion and faith should be examined particularly critically. But I know my faith has been formed by an illogical blend of reason and intuition. How strange- there was this guy who lived 2,000 years ago, who said a lot of  good and crazy things then acted out a lot of these good and crazy things, but then he died gruesomely, but was only dead for a sad few days because he rose again and lives on because or despite of the church. And I am a part of that church and the church is a part of me.

Because I never notice it until I see it in the rear-view mirror, but this is a life touched by a loving God.

(Does this read like the senseless rambling I feel like it turned into?)

Quote Corner

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“It seems that all my bridges have been burned./ You say that’s exactly how this grace thing works. / It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart /, but the welcome I receive at the restart.” -Mumford & Sons, Roll Away Your Stone