Farm Church This Sunday
Come as You Are
I zip past the vinyl banner, hung in front of a camp/retreat center less than a mile from our home. I smile each time I pass, the sign being one of the many new things this suburban-bred girl is learning about living in the semi-rural south.
Farm Church, I have learned, is exactly as you would imagine. It is an outdoor service geared towards those who’s vocation does not allow for a day off, even Sunday. Held at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, where on even the most scorching Alabama summer day one can find a breeze to cool both body and soul, no fancy church or alter is needed for these hearty individuals. There is no greater majesty available than that which has been created by God himself. In lieu of stained glass windows and velvet ropes are wild turkey and the occasional grazing doe.
The timing, 11:00 am, is intentional and respectful, the morning feedings and plantings or plowing are completed, and a break in the nearing heat of the day is welcome. There are no suits or fancy dresses to be found here, but rather blue jeans and overalls, many already caked from the morning’s work.
Everything about it honors the reality of the lives of those who attend.
I love the randomness of it. The sign does not appear weekly, and I have yet to find a pattern. It seems based on the whims of nature and weather.
I love knowing that the beautiful pastures I see daily are tended to by the people who are, in turn, themselves tended to.
I love living in a place and space that still has that Mayberry feel to it, where everyone knows everyone, everyone has a role, and every role is honored.
But what I love most is the last line: Come as You Are.
Come as you are.
In our small town, where there are churches on every corner, and sometimes in between, I have never seen a church sign with a more powerful message. I’ve seen, “Sunday School starts this week” and ‘Welcome Pastor Joe!”, but never have I seen “Come as You Are.”
It is plain. It is simple. It is profound.
Come as you are.
Covered in mud? Come as you are.
Sunburned and weary? Come as you are.
Hands covered in oil from trying to revive the tractor for one more season? Come as you are.
I am awestruck by the majesty, the nobility of the words. I can’t read them without feeling as if God himself is saying them. I can close my eyes and imagine the celestial hug that accompanies them.
I want to live a “come as you are” life.
Each year I settle more deeply into the authenticity of my truest self. One of the most beautiful gifts of aging is that sense of nesting into your soul, being at home in your own skin, and being able to see through all the nonsense.
Each day, I strive to live in a way that is inclusive and open and welcoming to all I encounter. I yearn for those I know and love to know they can always come to me exactly as they are. No pretense. No need to present in any way other than what is real and raw and true.
Each hour I endeavor to be fully present, open to what is happening in the moment, being as I am, with people who are being the same.
I fall dreadfully short on all counts.
I can get caught up in drama and nonsense, sidetracked from my best intentions. I fall prey to passing judgement and criticism, often without knowing the full person or the full story. I can become quick-tempered when frustrated that things are not going my way, on my time schedule.
But the “come as you are” philosophy invites me to accept even those less than perfect parts of who I am.
It allows me to be seen and known for all of who I am, even as I continually struggle to do better.
It grounds me in knowing that God calls to me, for me, loving me exactly as I am.
It reminds me that I can spend my time beating myself up about my faults, or call a truce and focus on moving forward. Either way, I am fully accepted.
“Come as you are” reminds me to give the same grace and understanding to others that I would wish for myself. Grace without “earning” or “deserving” it, but because it is right and precious.
I wonder how these words can become the core of who I am. I challenge myself to rise to both the complexity and quietness of the simple phrase.
I move forward with the intention to always come, exactly as I am, to each moment and every opportunity, and to welcome all I meet, know and love to come the exact same way.
Exactly as we are.