I’m not coming to your church. Pe-riod. Please stop asking.”My friend Red and I were stand-ing in my yard, the morning sunlight filtering through the trees, just as we’d done for some two decades. In all that time, I’d never said anything to Red that I feared might offend him.
Until now. Recently Red had been trying to get me to go to his church. The invitations started casually but had grown more insistent. Today he’d come over to fix my lawnmower. He and his boys had helped me out in countless ways during the four decades I’d lived out here in the rural West.
Before he even got to the mower, he started in about church. Red was a Mormon, but that wasn’t why I resisted his invitation. I’d been burned by churches in the past and preferred to meet God in Scripture and in nature, walking the hills with my dogs.
“I respect your church as I do all churches,” I said to Red. “I am just not drawn to a particular church anymore.”
“You can’t deny that belonging to a congregation has certain benefits,” Red said.
“I don’t deny that. I just don’t feel the need for church at this time in my life.”
Red kept at it as he worked on the mower.
“Are you afraid of where I’m going when I die? I’m not a heathen, you know,” I said, trying some humor.
Red laughed. “I think you would really be happy in a church family,” he said. “You spend too much time alone.”
This was starting to feel personal. “I like living alone,” I snapped. “You know that.” I hoped my tone would convince him to stop.
Mower fixed, he tried one last time before he got in his truck. “Why don’t you come to church next week with Starlyn and me for Easter service?” Starlyn was his wife of 50 years.
“I’ll be at a nondenominational sunrise service,” I said. “It’s outside with the wind and the coyotes—my kind of church.”
“Okay,” Red said. He got in the truck. I thought he was done. He smiled. “My grandson is getting baptized this summer. Maybe you could visit then.”
That did it. I stopped trying to be polite and just flat out told him to stop asking and never ask again. I didn’t hide the anger in my voice.
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