African Church. There is so much to those two words that one could comprehend only if they had experienced African church. Sore muscles from clapping without ceasing. Electronic keyboards making their own beat. Awkwardly-placed stained glass windows. Songs that seem to last longer than sermons. Pigeons fluttering in the rafters. Trying to follow endless scripture the pastor speaks in his native tongue. And in the midst of what most American pastors would consider a chaotic Sunday, two things come to the forefront - Jesus and Joy. Then the weight of the Julia Tarter original, “Jesus and Joy are a package deal,” becomes tangible. A couple days ago in church, while birds were ducking through rafters and muffled voices were making their way through speakers, and a keyboard was playing dance club music to a made-up beat, I saw the living-out of the powerful intersection that is Jesus and Joy.
The dance club keyboardist began with a small grin that quickly turned to an expression of enthusiasm as he got his wish. The church quickly turned from a calm, orderly, relaxed atmosphere to an atmosphere filled with energy, clapping and dancing, as children left their seats and flooded the front of the church. In unison the children moved from left to right, jumped up and down, and sang in harmony. Heavenly harmony.
There was a little girl at the front whom it was obvious didn't know the dance, but her joy was not preventing her from sitting still any longer. The smile on her face grew wider and wider as she glanced over her shoulders, learning the dance from her friends. As she learned, her moves became more emphatic. The shoes she wore started to become a hinderance to her worship. In a moment when a child could have chosen comfort over worship, she chose worship over comfort. And what is more important: an intimate moment of worship before our Heavenly Father and the Creator of all, or preventing a few callouses that will heal over time? Rhetorical of course.
Infinite praise versus finite circumstances. That little girl is living the “no shoes faith.” She understands that authentic praise is only authentic when hinderances are eliminated, be it outward or inward. Is my praise so full of joy and intimacy that my shoes are literally getting in the way? Is my understanding of God one that allows me to realize my comfort deserves less attention than His praise? Absolutely not. What would my summer, my community, my life look like if I was living in a state of “no shoes faith?” What would your life look like if you were living that way?