It was the summer after my junior year at Virginia Union University, when I decided to search for Jesus again.
It was a spur of the moment decision, brought on by the collision of raw emotions just the night before I decided to look for Jesus. I wanted to be home, back in Philly, but I had summer classes I needed to take if I was serious about graduating. Plus, I had no money nor car to even get me back home. In short, I was just pitiful and could have really used a friend. Therefore, Jesus.
Fortunately for me my apartment complex, which was located on the outskirts of Richmond, had chartered a bus for its college student tenants, which would take me back and forth to school. And I also had a friend, who would let me bum rides with her to our shared job hustling tables at Red Lobster. Unfortunately for me the bus didn’t run on the weekends and my only friend with a car did not believe in going to church. So unless Jesus was going to come scoop me up in his golden chariot, it was up to me to hike about 45 minutes each way just to get to the nearest bus stop.
I did so in a pair of sneakers, a dark colored jean skirt and a button down, which admittedly was a little snug from all the cheddar bay biscuits I had consumed in place of meals while working. The dress was my attempt to be presentable yet sensible enough for my long, hot walk. Luckily for me, my people were Catholic and the churches where we worshipped had a come as you are policy. So when I arrived 20 minutes late into the 11 a.m mass, no one paid me any mind.
In fact nobody paid me any mind, period. Not the ushers who didn’t welcome me into service. Instead they shoved a program in my hands, whispered in my ear a reminder about what time church services usually started and told me to sit in the back. Not the choir, who managed to take already antiquated hymns and make them sound even less charismatic. And not even the priest’s homily, which felt cold and impersonal and had nothing to do with anything I had been feeling at the moment. As I looked around the congregation, there was not a warm face in the bunch. This was so unlike my parish at home. In spite of the long-held mantra of come as you are, I certainly didn’t feel welcome that particular day.
After service had ended I stood solemnly at the corner near the church, waiting for the bus and watching the rest of the congregation walk back to their respective vehicles. I was both defeated and deeply disappointed that the magical interaction with Jesus, where I got to talk to him about all my problems and he would fix them right on the spot, did not happen. I was also annoyed that it was Sunday, which meant that the already slow and country bus system was going to be running extra slow and country today. And that meant I would likely be out there for an upwards of an hour.
Well now I’m thinking that Jesus is blatantly ignoring me and quite frankly, a bit of a prankster. I mean how else would you explain conning me out of bed on an Sunday morning and making me walk a couple of miles in the hot Southern heat, just for a dry wafer and sermon, which had nothing to do with me? I mean, what other purpose could this entire morning have served?
And that’s when a car pulled out. He rolled down the window, smiled and then said, “hey do you need a ride?”
It was one of the ushers in the church. I recognized him when I came in. He was the only one that smiled at me. Well, thank you Jesus!
Well into my grown years I can look retrospectively at that situation and realize it wasn’t the brightest of moves getting into that vehicle. But I was young, sweating like crazy and tired of standing. I wanted a ride, damn it! Plus I saw him come out of the church’s parking lot so I figured he had to be a good guy. Hell, maybe he was sent by the man upstairs as a way to make up for this false pilgrimage. Made sense to me.
“So it’s a nice day right,” he asked awkwardly.
I smiled too. “Yeah. And the sermon was lovely,” I said, lying on a Sunday.
He smiled a few moments more before turning his attention back to the road. “Well that’s nice. So how much?”
I stared at him cluelessly. “For what?”