For some reason, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my little basement apartment in Holt. In so many ways, I didn’t like that place (landlady with gun, tiny dogs on my bed, gurgling register in the bathroom – just to name a few), but in a few, I really did. And I think it’s because I associate that place (and vice versa) with a time in my life when I felt spiritually alive. That was when I was most deeply involved with Riverview, more specifically Epic (college ministry), Catalyst (leadership off-shoot) and life groups (bible study). That was the apartment where Laura and I decorated Halloween cookies for our fellow women. And where I lived literally one “block” (country road) from the church itself. I walked there the afternoon we left for the Fall Retreat, sleeping bag in one hand and shouldering a backpack full of clothes and toiletries for the two-day trip. And even though I never really made any close friends (lots of friends and acquaintances, but no FRIEND friends, you know?) that was my peak. I learned the most about God through those groups and that church. I had fire under me to make something of myself spiritually. I was baptized for the first time there, among my peers, with my family and close friends in attendance. Even though I attended for less than a year, Riverview was the apex of my Christian life.
Tonight, I went to Hope again for their Wednesday evening NEXT service. I ate so much at lunchtime that I opted to skip dinner, instead taking a walk around the lake at work, talking to Mandy on the phone and showing up in time for the class portion of the evening. Walking in the door, the coffee smell reminded me of Riv. And I went to that other session that I mentioned before – the non-touchy-feely one? – and it was SO. MUCH. BETTER. Oh, man. It totally took me back to Riv and Chuck Wynn’s Route 66 class (Old Testament in, like, a month of Sundays), and that morning I attended the welcome day at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. And, you know, to this day, biblical history gets me excited. Regular history – world, U.S., etc. – is OK, definitely interesting, all that. But biblical history hits me harder for some reason. Even in moments of extreme doubt, I will still be taking notes like a ravenous hobo who finds some clean crusts of bread near the top of the Dumpster. I really get into it.
While eating lunch with the singles ministry people the other day, I was chatting with a girl named Shelley, and mentioned my visit to the seminary, how I wished it made more sense to enroll even if you can’t see yourself in ministry in the future. But it just doesn’t. Everyone around me was “called” to pursue a career as a pastor or a permanent missionary. They’d been pondering it for years and asking God’s advice all along the way. They were relocating several hundred miles to heed God’s call. I, on the other hand, had been considering the notion for several … days? And I really just wanted to go to classes about history and theory and languages? Yeah, different worlds. I loved Old & New Testament at MSU, even if they were taught by two of the most hellacious professors in my college career. (Though I will admit I took a second course with one of them – I like a challenge!) These professors didn’t (seem to) believe in the faith behind the scripture whatsoever, so it balanced perfectly with Chuck Wynn’s totally faith-based teaching in Route 66. I ate up every bit of all three courses.
Anyway, I miss learning. I miss biblical history, theory and archeology. I miss scribbling notes like a fiend and finding out all the different translations of Greek and Hebrew words. I will always remember Laura bringing devotion passages from Sparkling Gems from the Greek, which looked like an extra-cheesy textbook covered in jewels but held so many great passages about the original Greek and today’s translations. I miss the Riverview family so much, even though I didn’t know more than 10 people of the thousands in attendance.
That Holt apartment and Riverview (even though it was huge in its own right) really represent for me a more down-to-earth, compact life than I could ever live here in Memphis. Not only is it a big place, but the roads are paved and busy, the street corners don’t feel safe, I can’t smell any manure and there are no places to walk. Holt was too far from East Lansing to walk to the Dairy Plant for work, but I drove there on empty roads at 6:30 in the morning. I watched the sun rise over fields full of either cows, sheep and a donkey, or geese nibbling at the remnants of recent threshings. I stopped my car, turned off the radio and turned to God for 15 minutes before I walked inside and faced days of making cheese and freezing ice cream. It wasn’t all perfect, and some of it was really hard, but it was my favorite time. I know I don’t need to be back in that exact spot to reawaken the joy of it, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to experience it here. Not in this house in the ‘burbs or dealing with crazy southern drivers every morning and evening. Probably not even in the Mid-South in general.
But maybe all I need is God to get me there. God and a strong pull to Him, to learn more about Him. We’ll see…