Long weekend… Travelled to Alabama for a Family Day at the first church Justin and I called home after college. A great church with beautiful people. Looking back on our time there, I think he really was a good preacher for them, and they really were a good home for us. We needed one another.
I remember driving to that church for Justin’s first “try-out” sermon. The enitire landscape seemed so foreign to us. Hills and trees, fields of crops, cows, horses, goats. We might have kept driving, driven right back to our apartment, if we didn’t need the job so much. Still, we didn’t think we’d ever fit there.
Now, I can’t imagine anything more ridiculous. Shiloh is our family. My brother died after we’d been there for only six months, and the love they showed… I was knocked down by it. Bobby died on December 13th, and so the congregation came to our house, packed up our Christmas presents and mailed them to Florida. I wasn’t thinking of Christmas presents. I certainly wouldn’t have remembered them, and if I had I might have decided to leave them behind—how could they be important in a time like this? But they were important—an invaluable distraction on Christmas Eve when we might have otherwise wallowed in the added sadness of a bare Christmas tree skirt. Instead, each present was a reminder that in Alabama people were loving us. Every year after that they bought us Christamas presents, and I was reminded of that first Christmas and how their love for us (and our love for them) was only growing with each passing year.
There were a million moments like that, times when Shiloh met our needs in the most perfect of ways. I remember members fixing our roof or weeding our flower beds while we were at work, never even letting us know they’d done it.
And these were the little, tangible things—the things you can jot down on a list of “great things Shiloh did for us.” The bigger things were harder to put your finger on. I’d say, though, that being at Shiloh made Justin and I better people. We learned at Shiloh that unity and a real sense of family is possible among strangers when Jesus is at work. We learned that being a Christian is about serving and not so much about indicting the Christians around you. We learned about faith and love and truth and loyalty and beauty. We learned a lot about dealing with pain, from our own experiences but also from observing the plights of so many others at Shiloh who were struggling with grief or job loss or disease, struggling gracefully and faithfully.
If I were to catalogue each of Shiloh’s contributions to my identity, to my spiritual health this would be a very long post. Instead, I’ll just say that being there on Family Day felt so right, because no where else (outside of my own physical family) have I ever felt more loved—and maybe even more loving.