It is the simplest questions I am asked that often leave me without answer.
She asked me, "Can I ask you something? Why do you go to church?"
And my mind went blank.
But let's back up a bit.
This was yesterday.
She approached the side of my car, wrapped up in a green and red Christmas blanket, morning cigarette smell on her breath.
And she never makes eye contact.
Always looks down; looks away.
I wonder what she thinks will happen if she looks me in the eye?
And she has done this before.
This getting out of her car, leaning up against the side of my dirty mini van, picking at nothing in the grass, or looking off to the side, and then dropping this bomb.
Always about God.
And her grandmother, who taught her to pray, who is on earth no more.
It is a mix of annoyance and discomfort for me, but mostly, it feels like helpless compassion.
I mean, how do you even answer such a question?
Why do I go to church?
She mentioned the hate she had in her heart, and how she wants it to go away.
"I was doing so good for so long, and now it is back."
Because those wolves do that, you know. I know that. They leave you for a while, but they always come back. Hungrier. Angrier. They are relentless.
"Does church make that go away? The hate?" she asked me.
Still, I had no answer.
"That is part of it", was all I could muster up.
Before the bus rolled down the hill, there was not enough time to tell her why I go to church.
Because I love Jesus.
Because there is no other way to start my day.
Because I must give thanks for every good thing.
Because the church is my home.
Because truly, if I didn't go to church, where on earth would I go?
Because I have fallen, and I will fall again, and there is no way I can continue to get up and fight the battle each day if I didn't have HIS strength to lift me.
Because I am a sinner.
Because I have fallen madly in love with my Creator.
Because I would die if I didn't.
"Come with me one day" I told her. "I go every day. Come with me."
And I know she won't.
She is scared.
She is lost.
She is angry.
She is hurting.
She is misguided.
She is desperate.
She is trapped in her sin.
She has been tricked.
She has been lied to.
She does not know she is worth it.
She is the closest thing to God I have ever seen.
Looking back on yesterday morning, her, wrapped tight in that blanket...that is what going to church is for me.
It is that blanket.
It wraps around me, keeps me from running, holds me still, protects me, envelops me in softness and warmth, comfort and peace. It is a shield of mercy and grace. Nothing feels safer.
The bus came.
The children scattered for back backs thrown among the grass, then disappeared down the road.
For the first time, she looked at me.
"Jesus loves the total wrecks, you know".
I told her this.
Right to her face.
Directly into her eyes.
But the honest truth?
The total wreck I was reassuring was myself.