I know from experience how it feels to walk into a new place and not know anyone, but long to be known or at least acknowledged. My natural inclination is to try to blend into the wall and hope no one notices that I’m new and out of place.
Two years ago, when I first walked into the Garden Church I snuck past everyone at the coffee station, pried open the doors to the auditorium and took the furthest seat in the back that I could find. It was dark and I was early, so the band was still rehearsing.
Shortly after moving to Long Beach I went through a terrible breakup with a long term boyfriend. I was new to the city, my university and felt very alone. My roommate saw the turmoil I was in and suggested I check out the Garden. She attended a different church on Saturdays, so I went alone. I was uneasy and I just wanted to sit in the back, blend in and then leave as soon as possible.
Since the breakup was so recent, I could feel myself ready to unravel at any moment. Walking in with swollen eyes from crying all night took a tremendous amount of courage.
As I was sitting alone, fidgeting with my phone, a lady approached me and introduced herself, asked for my name and wanted to know if I was new. She was very warm and inviting, and from our conversation I found out that her family knew the Pastors at my old church back home, which in my mind reassured me that I wasn’t walking into a cult. Later on, I realized that she was the Pastor's mom, which was pretty cool.
The conversation was short and brief, but it was the pivotal reason I came back. I continued to sit alone in the back and observe every week. After a few months of coming by myself and leaving quickly, I decided to reach out to the college age community group to possibly join.
My roommate joyfully supported me and went with me for the first community group gathering. I could tell right away that this was a special group of people. I continued to show up and thankfully I call them all friends to this day.
Entering the unknown can be scary and plain hard. Just driving to church that day was difficult, but I knew I couldn’t make it without joining community and facing my brokenness.
Looking back, I can’t remember the message that was preached that day. I’m sure it was a great one, but what I remember was the small act of kindness the woman showed by reaching out and saying hello. It was so simple, yet it had a huge impact on why I decided to keep coming back.
As humans we all want to feel welcomed and acknowledged, so I encourage you to be the person to approach someone you don’t know and make them feel accepted. As Christ followers, we should go out of our way to make others feel known and loved. You never know the impact you can have on someone’s life just by saying hello.
If you’re the person who is coming alone and sitting in the back, I encourage you to keep showing up and reaching out to join and create community. Life is hard enough and you shouldn’t have to go through it alone.
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.” Romans 15:5
Thanks for checking out this blog, I hope it encourages you to step out for those who are new or over looked, you never know what that small act of kindness will do to make them feel loved and accepted.
If you're in the area and want to check out my church, I would love to sit with you!