Predictable Can Be Good.


Sometimes predictable is good. We were visiting our family up north over the Memorial day weekend and the usual “where do you want to go for dinner” question came up. We tend to eat out a lot these days when the family gathers together. We debated between BBQ and Chinese food. BBQ seemed more fitting for Memorial Day, since it’s the unofficial start of summer, right? We didn’t quite find the BBQ place we were looking for. I mentioned to my husband:

“Authentic Chinese sounds good, but ya know...I kind of want predictable. If we go to Panda Express you always know exactly what you are going to get. It’s always the same.”  

 We drove by a Chinese restaurant and decided to pull in. Live a little. Be less “predictable.”

   This restaurant which was highly influenced by the color pink, ended up being a lot more “authentic” than any of us were ready for. The fried rice looked more burnt brown than I was used to. It tasted kinda strange too. The noodles were really soupy. The egg rolls dipped in so much batter you could hardly recognize what you were eating. Deep fried more than a Twinkie at the county fair. The kids poked at their food and only liked the egg flower soup. We didn’t eat much, it just wasn’t what we thought it was going to be. Or maybe it was exactly what we thought it was going to be (authentic) We did like the deep fried broccoli but not much else. Again, a flashback to the county fair. When the waitress came over to offer us to-go boxes, we politely declined, using the “we are staying in a hotel and don’t have a fridge” excuse. Which was true.

    Within 30 minutes of finishing up dinner, I was left feeling a bit uncomfortable. Ten minutes later I was crying for my mama, feeling the worst I’ve felt in a very long time. Wishing our hotel room had more than one bathroom, because I wasn’t about to share it with anyone! I sent my husband off to the nearest Rite-Aid (drugstore) to pick up some much needed Pepto Bismol, which was as pink as the Chinese restaurant. After several miserable hours (I will keep the details to myself!), I finally drifted off to sleep and felt much better in the morning. As we got ready to check out of the hotel, my husband looked at me and said, “we should have gone with predictable Panda Express.”  So true.

    Sometimes predictable is good. It can be comforting to be hundreds of miles from home and still be able to partake in the familiar. My Starbucks non fat latte taste exactly the same down the block from my house or across the country. Target looks and feels identical to the one five blocks from my front door in practically every town we visit. The comforting familiarity of franchise. This got me thinking about church. After reading “Deep and Wide” by Andy Stanley I’ve been intent on viewing church from a visitor’s point of view. Especially someone who isn’t really familiar with going to church at all.  One thing visitors need to feel comfortable in a new setting (church) is knowing what to expect. Knowing where to go, where to sit, and just how long the service is going to be. Nothing unexpected or a menu so foreign you have no idea what you are actually ordering (or in for).

    When I was a teenager my parents took us to visit a new church. They liked to bounce around a bit from church to church. Always having a hard time landing on one they both liked for some reason. It was a more “sprit-filled” kind of church and the unpredictability of it made me completely uncomfortable as a teenager. At some point there was a high pressure altar call and somehow my brother and I felt guilted to move forward. We were quickly ushered into some prayer circle where we were unable to leave until we demonstrated a genuine “baptism of the holy spirit.”  So of course we faked it. Pretending to speak in tongues so they would let us go home. 

Sometimes predictable is good. Everyone likes to know what to expect. What they are in for. Feeling comfortable and enjoying broccoli beef over brown rice at Panda Express can be just fine. After the "speak in tongues" trauma of my youth, I've come to enjoy churches with a little more structure and order (can anyone say Book of Order?). As a youth worker I would hate to scare teenagers away with guilt trips and by putting them in completely awkward situations. I am all for creativity and innovation, but always keeping in mind the un-churched we are trying to reach (not scare away!)

What is your craziest church experience?


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