It’s not the people. Individually, they are LOVELY. But there’s something about a group. In a small area. Trying to talk to one another at once.
Something that makes me want to stuff my fingers in my ears and lie down in a darkened room. On an island. In space.
You’re trying to connect deeply/make small talk but Billy is practising on the drums and you can’t remember that lady’s name even though you’ve asked it twice already.
You’re trying not to squash a small child/catch three people you really have to see/avoid someone you don’t. A friend who’s on the verge of tears, is trying to talk to you, but so is Mrs S, who is chatting over her regardless and introducing you to Someone Else From Ireland. In the meantime, the newcomer who wants to know more about Jesus has left and you’re still carrying Jane’s casserole dish from two month’s ago.
Your smile is starting to twitch. Everyone else seems to be deep in meaningful conversation/laughing uproariously. Your child (who has wet herself) is screaming/making for the exit/stuffing chocolate bourbons in her eyes/asking why that man smells funny. You’re desperate for coffee and the loo but there’s a queue for one and the other is out of order.
You can see the exit but there are four people in the way, two of whom need to speak to you urgently about The Rota. Your blood sugar is dropping and the roast is BURNING and you don’t even like chicken but it’s SundayandonSundayYOUHAVECHICKEN.
When you do get out (after the buggy gets stuck and they’ve turned out the lights), you realise you’ve lost your keys and it’s starting to rain. So, you decide to become a hermit and never go to church again.
You pray about it in advance. You ask God to go ahead of you and you entrust your time and conversations to Him.
You set yourself realistic expectations. You will not be able to catch up with the five people you’d planned to. But with a bit of prayer, you’ll have one good conversation. Brilliant!
You refuse to caricature other people. In those large groups are small groups which you can manage. Strangers you want to meet. Friends who love you and who you love back. People who will help you see the world with different eyes. Folks who are like you and folks who are different. Divine appointments that you don’t need to manage.
You refuse to beat up on yourself. It’s been a long week and you’re tired. But you’re here and that’s great. You’ve spent time listening to God’s word and meeting with His people. Everything else is a bonus.
You try to keep a sense of humour. You are honest about your struggles with a few close friends and you are (appropriately) real with others. You talk about what helped you from the sermon: and you ask others what helped them.
You forget about cooking chicken or develop a taste for it extra-crunchy.