Dave and I didn’t have a lifelong mission statement, unlike some other people.
We married and had three kids in rapid succession. Since 2008, our lifelong ambition has been to hide the frozen yogurt from the kids.
On the spectrum of radical faith — with Jesus on one end and a bag of marshmallows on the other — Tom and Sarah have been edging ever closer to Jesus since before they were Tom and Sarah. On the other hand, Dave and I simply lived in a succession of beige-walled apartments and one cute single-family house, from Toledo to Lansing by way of Wisconsin.
We spent weeks at our newspaper jobs; weekends doing laundry and watching TV. We have never been arrested for demonstrating outside the Capitol. We haven’t had anyone stay at our house longer than a week or so.
Well, except our children. Do they count?
Listen, we’re as radical as a bag of marshmallows.
But sometime around our move to Michigan, we did begin to have a shelf full of books on new monasticism. A second-hand copy of The Irresistible Revolution was the gateway drug to discontent. Reading our bibles together only intensified that feeling: we wanted to live like that. But how? What do we ..? Where?
Plus, we had obstacles to that radical life: three children. $50,000 in student and car loans. Being labeled “weirdos” by all acquaintances. I repeat: three children.
This was and is hard stuff, this life of faith.
Like Tom and Sarah’s choice to worship at Asbury Temple in North Carolina, so we needed people to speak in the language we were just learning — not the one we already spoke.
Our church in Wisconsin did that, but here we were, six months and six hours away from Water City Church. We visited three or four churches in Lansing, but those first months were a mashup of too many “new radical” or “new monastic” voices and zero people to talk to.
Until this church, Sycamore Creek, kept popping up. First in the newspaper for its Church in a Diner services. Then again for a book Sarah wrote. We saw their bounce house from afar on Memorial Day. “We’d better visit some Sunday before we get hit by a Sycamore Creek bus,” I joked.
Easy for me to say.
“What address did you put in?” We idled in an empty parking lot that first Sunday. Dave scrolled on his phone for an address. I watched the clock: 10:50 a.m.
“Oh, it’s inside Lansing Christian School!” he exclaimed, whipping around the steering wheel toward the street again. We did the arguments: “we’re late,” “no, we’re on time”and “let’s just do it another time,” “no, I ironed my skirt for this.” 10:55, we spotted it in an industrial park; 10:58 a.m., we skidded into a parking space. We may not have been speaking to each other.
We turned on the smiles as we opened our car doors. Someone was watching: someone else in a skirt, her very-pregnant body coaxing her tired toddler into a car seat. Pleas for snacks met our ears just as Sarah’s smile reached our eyes. Her belly turned toward us and I told Dave, “I think that’s the pastor’s wife? Doesn’t she look like the one from the article in the paper?”
“Yeah, that’s her.” He whispered this.
“Do we say hi, or ..?”
She handed her son a bowl of snacks to free her arm in a handshake. “Hi! I’m Sarah, and this is Micah. Welcome! Is this your first time at Sycamore Creek?” She brushed short hair back under her brimmed hat, pulling it down for shade from the late June glare.
In between feeding Micah Cheerios and exchanging names, she heard our names, that we had three girls — all at Grandma’s for the weekend. (“Wait, people do that?!”) Micah whined on cue.
The worship music reached us in the parking lot. “We should go,” I said, as Sarah said, “Micah will turn into a pumpkin if I don’t get him home for lunch. Hopefully we’ll talk more later.”
(Neither of us realized, but that’d be the line we used for the next, what, three years now: “Hopefully we’ll talk more later.”)
And we worshiped and — we stayed there. Did we stay at Sycamore Creek because Jeremy is an amazing worship leader (he is), or Tom preached an epic sermon (I’m sure he did)? Because so many said hello (we’re really friendly)? The great nursery (yep)?
All these things helped. We needed the anchor a church can be. We knew if we were serious about this faith, this new monastic thing, doing it alone was impossible.
But — also, we who were discerning next steps just heard one: “We’ll talk more later.” That’s compelling.
Erin F. Wasinger and her family moved to Lansing in 2013, and began attending Sycamore Creek Church about six months later. Excerpt expanded from the book The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us (Brazos Press, 2017).