On our last mall-walking excursion Vanda reminded me that my grandmother, who had gone to be with God almost exactly two years earlier, had been a regular walker at the same mall. I was literally following in her footsteps. It occurred to me that Grandma must have been a participant in what Vanda describes as the slow-forming flash mob in the mall parking lot when the doors open at 9 am. I wondered if Grandma avoided, like I do, the scale outside the GNC store that belts out “have you weighed yourself today?” if you pass close enough to its motion detector.
Grandma must have sat among the coffee table rearrangement brigade at the center of the mall. She was great at meeting people and engaging in life with them – and sitting around having coffee every morning after a brisk lap or two was a great way to do it. Grandma was a true mall-walker, of that I’m sure – and that certainty offered insight into the faults of my own perspective on the phenomenon.
My description of mall-walkers in my March 13 blog Mall Walkers paralleled the way outsiders can feel unwelcome at a new church – not looking or acting like the regulars (with regard to attendance, not in a Jamie Lee Curtis yoghurt commercial way). I can easily picture Grandma Knick dressing appropriately for the work out and even putting her hand along the wall as she walked to prevent turning too soon and shortening her hike. One thing I am sure about: she never looked down on anyone. I would have been the first to defend the purity of her intentions if someone would have suggested she walked with the air of superiority that I imagined others doing in my previous blog.
The main premise of last week’s blog remains intact. It is up to the church to develop a welcoming atmosphere. What the Holy Spirit has reminded me of is the danger of projecting the negative attitudes of Christians from my experience onto people whom I’ve never met. I wrote about how the church tends to not accept those who aren’t like them, yet that’s exactly what I did in my assumptions about the mall-walkers. If my Grandma walked those halls in her way, I’m sure there’s a few others like her who do today. The majority of the Pharisees we read about in the New Testament were evil in their pursuit, but as a group they were highly regarded and many truly dedicated their lives to holy living. Do you remember the Pharisee Nicodemus in John 3? He was eagerly seeking the truth from Jesus Christ, and Jesus gave it to him.
Vanda and I left the denomination we had grown up in, and that most of my family still belongs to. The following summer we went to a family reunion. My Grandma gave an impromptu speech about how it didn’t matter where her children and grandchildren went to church, as long as they believed in Jesus Christ and followed him as best they could. Though she didn’t say my name, Grandma gave me her blessing in front of the whole family. But, she still walked the way she always had in the denomination she and grandpa served in for several decades.
So, now I can walk the mall with just the right mix of pride and humility: pride in the heritage passed down from Grandma, and humility from the Holy Spirit’s corrective about how easy it is in the pursuit of truth succumb to hypocrisy.