We sat in the sanctuary of a church not too far from here. I was young, in college, and other than a summer on foreign ground, had never experienced a worship service that was a whole lot different from those I grew up in. The liturgy that morning was slightly more sophisticated than I was used to, but nothing too out of the ordinary.
I was in Waco visiting Luke, who I had become my friend after we spent the summer of '96 as summer missionaries to Estonia. Scott, Luke's partner that summer, and also someone I had known from Tyler Junior College and was pretty green behind the ears as well, was also with us.
I was familiar with most of the songs sung, and although the preacher read straight from a manuscript, which I had never observed before, things were still slightly within the template available for my mind to comprehend.
And then it happened. Something I had never even considered as a possibility occurred. The sermon finished, the invitation was given, then the prayer prayed. During this prayer, which was a segue from everything previous to the taking of the offering, the ushers came forward. After the amen we opened our eyes (keeping my eyes open during the prayer was also an act not believed to be available to me.)
And we saw what we saw, Scott and I for the first time, Luke, perhaps, for the millionth.
A female usher.
The shock registered on our faces before Scott and I slowly and melodramatically turned our heads to each other to see if we were each seeing what we thought we saw. Before you knew it Luke recognized the blowing open of our tiny little East Texas doors and began laughing hysterically right there in church.
This is not a story about how I got my first glimpse into a world in which both genders carried equal weight and shared identical roles in a worship setting. Those discussions have been done to death. It's about something much more basic-- Discovery.
If your life path took you on a trajectory similar to mine, then the years in college and shortly after were a whirlwind of discovery. (Which also could be a sign of how little I was exposed to as a child.) It seemed like everywhere I turned there was something going on that was new to me. In most periods of my life, including the present, if I wanted to find out things previously unknown, I had to go on a deliberate quest to seek those things out. But between the ages of 18-24, those things just fell in my lap.
I sit at an interesting vantage point. Living in a city and going to a church that sees a constant flux of students, I get to witness on a yearly basis new people who are discovering. It's quite exciting, but it has its moments. Legion are the times I get stuck in a conversation with someone sharing with a theological, sociological, political, or just plain academic point they had just learned, and giving their explanation in such a way as to suggest they have always held a certain opinion as gospel truth.
Inside I just laugh. And it's not necessarily an "I can't believe they are just now discovering this thing, I've known this forever" laugh. Many times it's something I've never considered or even heard about.
I suppose my inner laugh is at me sitting in the pew of Calvary Baptist church and being shocked by something happening that, now, would cause me great unease if I found myself in a situation where it didn't happen. Maybe I'm laughing at my current condition, where when forced to work hard to find little treasures here and there, I choose instead to return to home base.
Maybe I'm just laughing out of a nervous suspicion that there is something lurking around the corner that will, once again, take me by surprise-- and which ten years from now I will laugh at being taken by surprise.