Why yes, I did wear this scarf AT you.
It is my shield, it is my defense, hear it roar! Now, some context.
Many of you know that we’ve been church-searching for over a year now. That’s a whole lot of Sunday rounds of “oh-hi-first time?-you-from-around-here?” small talk and it’s loving and hospitable and exhausting. Oh to enter a church like Norm entered Cheers; “SARAH!” and then everyone goes back to what they were doing.
I do not like small talk; it’s like a limp handshake or filling a swimming pool only to ankle’s depth; it’s so much of an almost that it’s exasperating. The equivalent of needing a good long hug and having your loved one standing arm’s length away smiling compassionately, arms just dangling at their side. Give me your you-ness, already! Cut the crap and be substantial!
Visiting churches is small talk purgatory. It’s not that I’m not interested in talking to people and getting to know them; I just don’t want to watch the parade and processions of fluff words that seem to have to pass by before we actually land on any good ones.
I would feel such profound relief if someone approached me, we introduced ourselves, and then conversations like these would happen:
Where are you at in your spiritual life? Journeying with God, ignoring Him? Right now I’m________________.
What did you think about the verses read today? The thing that resounded with me was _________.
I fought with my husband the whole way here to church. Do you struggle with the incongruence too? I feel like such a hypocrite.
Give me something to chew on with you; let us feast, us two, on words that frame life. Give me you or give me the parking lot. So I wear the lion scarf.
Scarves vary in their approachability factor. Nothing says I’m a nice Christian gal like an infinity scarf. Like you’re infinitely nice. Especially when paired with a softly glamorous updo, a shirt with either pale stripes or chevron, topped with a bright cardigan on the opposite side of the color wheel, a nondescript skirt, leggings, and soft brown leather boots. Oh, and there would be earrings too. And a slouchy purse.
This is a soft, good look. I like it. I know that person would give me gum or a tissue or a kidney if need be.
That’s why I wear the lion scarf.
See, when you wear a royal blue silk scarf that is peppered with bright mustard yellow lions and trimmed with vermillion red, you are sending a message. Or, rather, you’re introducing static into the transmission. Imagine the nice lady figured above but wearing also a fur hat. It’s a bit “off”; off-beat, off-trend, off-clarity. You had her pegged but then she did that so now you’re not sure if she’s the nice Christian lady who would always be asked to teach Sunday school to the fourth graders, OR some odd eccentric who may or may not be nice, and someone whom it would probably pay to orbit for a while rather than approach directly. I want to be orbited. The scarf helps.
You may laugh, but it really works. It can be the lion scarf or my gigantic toothpaste-colored purse or all black clothing with yellow earrings. It’s beside the point that I like my particular shields. The thing is, they work. They seem to repel the surge of small talkers toward the “new family”, or at least to deflect them to the always normal-looking husband. The ones that do approach me, and my lions, tend to be braver sorts and I tend to like their words more. I don’t feel exhausted and pained in the facial muscles from pulling smiles out of nothing. A tugged-in smile has nothing on a genuine one, and, dear Greeter, I can tell which one you’re wearing; you can’t possibly be that happy to meet us. Be warm, indeed, but don’t beam at us like we’ve cured cancer. Be real, be nice, be you; that’s more than enough of a welcome.
I get that all visitors want different things when arriving at a church for the first time; some I’m sure would be glad and grateful for small talk ad nauseum and gushing hospitality. But for a lot of us? We just want to nod “good morning”, slip into a back pew, and see what’s what. Let us come out of our shell, or out from behind our shields, when we see what you’re like and how the wind blows around these parts.
Until then, the lions.