I can still see the crazy little stage in the woods with the Christmas lights around it in July. Then a big sign lit up above it that said, “Escape”. It was a Christian concert and many people brought tents to camp, kind-of a Jesus Woodstock, I thought. The “Escape” was from Psalm 124:7:
Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped.
I needed a little bit of an escape. I was a single mom with a toddler and two little gangsta teenage boys at home. The toddler was comparatively easy. I worked the night shift at Cape Cod Hospital and I believed that angels guarded my home. I believed that Jesus was the head of my household and that His big arms held us all together. I was madly in love with Him including bumper stickers, tee-shirts, scriptures scribbled on a big blackboard in my kitchen. I kept a basket of tracts on my kitchen table that even my sons’ little thug friends would sit down and read.
I think I was tired all the time; yes, from the night shift and that strange other-dimension that you learn to function in, but lonely too. I went to a sweet little church locally, but I was way too busy for a social life. So I got a sitter, packed my tent and sleeping bag, a small cooler and a Bible and headed off Cape. I had never been to a Christian concert and I hadn’t been camping in years.
There were woods surrounding the small field with the stage at one end, and I noticed some tents set up on the periphery, so I trekked in a little deeper and set up away from everyone else. This gave me a safe vantage point. I could see them, but they wouldn’t notice me. It was stealth fellowship.
I saw couples and families and maybe some all-alone folks like me and we made our way down to the stage as the music started. It was awkward but in a funny way, as we looked at each other with big goofy grins and clapped and lifted our hands to heaven. Parents danced with their children and the musicians were having fun too. You could tell they didn’t care if they were dressed right, or if people thought they were any good. They just sang about Jesus, and told some stories and as the sky grew dark the Christmas lights got brighter and the Escape sign looked like fire pinned against the black night. We were small under the huge night sky, but God was there, moving among us, maybe singing along.
When I went back to my tent I was surprised to see that some people had pitched their tents nearby and they stopped over, offering food, flashlights and friendship. I could hear kids laughing and playing between the trees, parents cajoling then to sleep, but in a gentle way, and I could smell the pine and smoke from the dwindling bonfire in the field.
It was then that it occurred to me that I was not ever alone here on earth, that as long as I was His, then I was a part of something big and lasting. And that little concert was a small piece of it. We lay there in our tents, our hearts linked in worship, under the stars and moon, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the Most High, finding rest and peace. I rose early the next day and quietly packed up and left, knowing I had found what I was looking for.
Twenty- something years down the road, this sense of community is even more precious to me. I witnessed it five years ago in a church in Korea with my one-year-old granddaughter. There was absolutely no English, not even the alphabet was familiar. But I could still worship with them, and greet them with the same goofy smile as they cooed and clucked over little Brooklynn. There are no boundaries in God’s kingdom.
I love my church. There’s a priceless beauty to years spent together. We’ve watched each other’s toddlers turn into young men and women; some have married and have their own toddlers. Others have walked away for now. But best of all are the new believers: wide-eyed with wonder and hearts ablaze, much like I was at that concert long ago. They help me stay young and grateful and kind of goofy too. I’m looking for another bumper sticker.
I meet lonely people all the time, and it’s just another way I can see where we have strayed far from where God wants us to be. We are surrounded by people, but so many of us are terribly alone; lying sick alone, even dying alone. Or caught up in a relentless whirlwind of busy-ness; kids, jobs and a two week vacation somewhere that is supposed to be relaxing. It’s not. You want life to have more meaning than Like?
Christians get tired too, believe me. But there is a sanctuary, a place of rest and refreshing, where we can come together and worship and remember why we are here to begin with. That’s why I love God’s church. I want it to be like that sign was for me, lighting the way to Jesus against the darkness, a refuge for the weary, a place filled with all kinds of crazy-in-love-with Jesus people. Not perfect, but still pressing on – my brothers and sisters, and His sons and daughters. We are escaped. Let us never stop singing our praise!