It was my first time out of the country. I knew some Spanish, but I was not at all prepared for the month-long journey ahead. I flew in to Mexico City to catch my last flight to Oaxaca.
The airport was bland and uninteresting to say the least. I grabbed my bag and started walking, looking for something to eat. Small shops lined the terminal and in the distance was what seemed to be a nice restaurant. The only other food available (other than candy bars) was at a little taco stand next to the restaurant. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I thought Mexico City would surely have more to offer. I decided to conserve money and eat at the taco stand. I shelled out a few dollars for a couple of tacos that really didn’t hit the spot.
I’ll skip ahead to my trip back to the states. The trip back was single-handedly the worst trip of my life. The story is so ridiculous Hollywood couldn’t have written it better. But I’ll save that for another post.
During the trip back I passed through the same airport in Mexico City. I was tired, hungry and pretty much mad at life. My food expectations were non-existent given my previous encounter at the airport. After claiming my bags, I entered the terminal.
It was like a magical Disney moment. I could hear the orchestra playing and see pixie dust falling as the camera panned around the terminal and focused on my surprised face. There was a Subway, a Carl’s Jr., and a Burger King. I couldn’t believe my eyes! There was food everywhere! And to think a month earlier I had settled for a couple of tacos that really didn’t hit the spot.
The fact is that I missed out on what was right in front of me because my perspective was limited to that one wing of the airport with the taco stand. I had no idea there was more to the airport.
During the following year, I did something that may shock you. I quit church. I didn’t attend a church service for six months. Sure I watched services online and occasionally watched Christian TV, but I unplugged.
Contrary to what you may think, it was good for me. I had been bogged down by church. I had spent years conforming to a system. My perspective was tainted by a desire to please people. My outlook on life was determined by what happened within the four walls of the church. I was settling for a couple of tacos that really didn’t hit the spot.
During the six months, the Holy Spirit challenged me: “Live Right and Love Well.”
He didn’t challenge me to read my Bible or pray two hours a day (although those are good disciplines). He challenged me to expand my perspective and BE the church.
I remember going to Wal-Mart one night in Crowley, LA (because there’s nothing else to do in Crowley) and seeing a tattered young woman in line. She was pretty, but her hair was dishevelled and she looked as though she didn’t think too much of herself. She had several items of clothing as well as groceries on the counter. As the cashier rang up each item the girl looked at the total, seemingly to make sure she had enough money for everything. I felt the Holy Spirit tell me to pay for it all. I said, “ALL OF IT?” Then I bargained with him. “What if I give her $20?” “No. Pay for all of it.” I finally agreed. I looked at the cashier and said, “You can put it all on my bill.” The girl was shocked. So shocked that she asked me if I wanted a girlfriend. I kindly told her that I just wanted to bless her.
After checking out, I went out to find her in the parking lot. I spent a couple of minutes telling her about Jesus and how much he valued her. Then we went our separate ways.
Had I seen her a year earlier, she would have struggled to pay her own bill. But God had changed my perspective. It took six months of me sitting outside the church to realize that’s where the church is supposed to be. Outside.
As Christians, we often live for what happens within the church. However, Jesus also died for what is happening outside the church. My challenge today is that you would take a peek outside the church building. It’s easy to get wrapped up in church life: jobs, services, and systems. Yes, those things are important for the church to function, but they are not the most important. Don’t settle for a couple of tacos that really don’t hit the spot. Allow God to change your perspective. He’s still changing mine.