There are a handful of people already at the house when I walk in. A few little ones are playing with cars and blocks on the floor, occasionally punctuating the general din of conversation with collisions and exclamations alike. It feels good to see these faces. It feels normal, an unexpected normal. One that crept in when I wasn’t watching and took root where I hadn’t planned.
I remember the first time I knocked on the door, timid and nervous. Each house church is a little different and I was unsure of what to expect. Standing there in the company of “what if” stirred up just enough uncertainty to make me linger outside. But that isn’t where I wanted to stay, not really. I rapped on the door and took a breath. Before long it opened and I was invited into the chaos.
Children were scurrying in and out of the main room while adults set up for the meal and chatted. Once the last few people trickled in we prayed and filed through the kitchen for a potluck style dinner. There was an informality to it all that was comforting. Everyone settled around the table or on one of the couches to eat and catch up with one another. The rooms clamored with conversation.
After the meal was finished, a couple people volunteered to teach and play with the younger children down the hall while the rest of the group began the study. Scripture was read aloud together and the evening’s facilitator asked questions to encourage dialogue. There was an atmosphere that allowed for honesty. Some questions were met with silence while others garnered several responses. Discussions were given room to grow and delve into matters of the heart.
The evening transitioned into a time of prayer and communion; an invitation to transparency, to celebrate God for who He is. A few told of struggles they were in the midst of, giving the house church the opportunity to help shoulder the weight of it. Some confessed sin they had given into while others recounted victories over temptations. Instances of God’s provision and faithfulness were shared to lift each other’s spirits. With bits of bread dipped in grape juice we all reflected on where we have been, where we are and the lengths God went to for our restoration.
Week after week we gather to try and figure out what it means to live together, to lean on each other, to be real. Some days it looks like going furniture shopping while others it’s sitting nearby with a box of Kleenex. It can still be frightening to be vulnerable, let alone with an unfamiliar group. Each of us is learning to stretch our boundaries, to let our guard drop and allow others into the gritty places, the places where sin hides, where we most need truth and grace. But it has to start some place with someone. Might as well be on this side of the door where we are all family anyway.
Author: Robin Zastrow
Photographer: Amber Wing