The nervousness of walking in another door was great but if I was to find a church in my community, I needed to take that step. Several people were in the church that day. It seemed to be a big anniversary gathering. Lots of people were talking to each other as I walked in. The only words said to me were by the “greeter” at the door. No handshake or smile, just a “Make sure you sign the guest book” and then turning to someone they knew better than me.
Okay, so maybe that wasn’t the best date to visit. Let’s see what happens on another day. Bright smile applied. Shoulders set in a relaxed friendly angle. Do what I can to catch an eye and be open to what comes.
Nope. Nothing before church. Okay, maybe people need to be settled. Watch carefully to find an empty unwanted seat so that I don’t cause the grumbling that happened in another setting. Stand, sit, sing, listen. The service draws to a close.
Move out into the foyer. Bolster myself a bit with the edge of a table but don’t try to hide between my shoulder blades. Not to eager but open for what might come.
Look! a woman walking my way. And another coming from the other direction. Perhaps my openness was what was needed. The woman come to each side of me. I smile.
They don’t even glance toward me. They stand so close having a conversation across my nose that I can’t really go anywhere. The conversation is not one that invites anything I might have to offer so I wait. Perhaps as the conversation goes on they will bring me in.
The conversation ends. The women walk away. Their eyes don’t even dart a look toward me. I am shaken by the invisibility of my presence in that building and especially in that conversation within my close personal space that did not even include me with a glance.
I think it is time to make my exit. Unfortunately, the pastor is blocking the door with hand shakes. Right at the moment I am feeling a little to raw for official greetings. But I steel my shoulders and move toward the door doing my best to disappear.
He sees me and holds out a hand to shake as he looks sideways to the next person but I stop. In stopping his attention turns to me.
“This is my second visit to your church,” I tell him. And you are the first person to greet me. In fact, I just had two people carry on a conversation across my nose. I am not telling you this for me. I won’t be back. I have the strength still to try another church so I will get past the unfriendliness here. This is not my last hope.”
“But for the next person who walks through your door, you may be. If that person who is longing to find a faith community meets what I did today, they may not have it in them to take another chance.”
“I can only tell you what I experienced. You will have to decide what to do with it but I pray for the next stranger that may walk through your door. How you greet or don’t greet them may ma difference.”
Did he thank me for my words? I really don’t remember. I was just numb with a disbelief that people can be so calloused.
I want to remember, not in naming their names or church but in knowing what it felt like to be an invisible woman. May God give us the eyes to see.