Just a Flicker…

Two hours of comp time — that’s what I’d earned and was supposed to use up before payday. I’d made a middle-of-the-afternoon sips-and-chat date with a girlfriend, but when her schedule locked up and she couldn’t get away, I decided to just take the time as “me” time instead. The past few weeks have been hectic and I haven’t had time to process everything going on, so I grabbed my kleenex, an old journal, and headed to as much of an “alone” space as I could find in the middle of the city. A local park, where I could sit and look at what I’ve decided is my favorite old tree in the city and the nannies pushing their charges on swings while simultaneously talking on cell phones.


That’s what I’ve been struggling with lately.

Yes, struggling.

It took me a while to realize it. I’ve been so busy waking and sleeping, working and playing, exercising and resting, reading and writing and editing and living, that somehow I missed it. And then I got an email from Pedro — a pastor I met and worked with in the mission field in the Dominican Republic. And then, I got some emails from Jim — a pastor/translator I met and worked with in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

It just seemed odd to me — why would these men, whom I haven’t seen or talked to in years email me now?

God’s answer was quick and it sucked all of the air out of the room: “You symbolize hope to them.”

I answered just as quickly. “But God, how could I?” And I looked around the dark closeness of my bed that night and realized that hope hadn’t been there with me in a while.

It’s not that I’m depressed, desperate, or suicidal. Those are places I’ve been before and am familiar with. I’m not there. And I can’t even say that I’m sad. But something’s missing and I was so busy staying busy that I didn’t realize it until I was faced with it.

I really wasn’t going to talk about this here. I don’t have it all ironed out. The emotions are still raw and the answers aren’t tied up in pretty bows yet. But then Rick (from Planned Peasanthood) got on Facebook and said, “Hey, you’re overdue for a blog post.” So, here it is, Rick. Chaotic, unfinished, unrighteous, and unlovely.

So, what’s the something that’s missing? I’m still working on that, but one look at Twitter gave me one of my answers.

I love Louie Giglio, but his tweet made me furious.

“The Church is the plan.”

The anger rose up inside of me and I almost tweeted him back, even knowing that he’d never respond. I wanted to say, “Yeah, well, what does one do when The Church rejects them?!” But before I could tap it into my Android, my anger quelled enough to recognize that the problem isn’t just that simple. There are loads of churches who would love to have my name on their rolls, my money in their offering plates, and my hips in their nurseries to hold their babies.

Here’s the problem: How do I find a church who wants to be my FAMILY and not just my taskmaster? How do I find a church who wants my hang-ups and screw-ups as much as they want my tithe? How do I find a church who is willing to take my errors, doubts, and questions, as well as my gifts, experiences, and wisdom? THAT is the church I need. But how do I find it?

I think that one of the reasons I lost hope and slid into auto-pilot mode is because I feel like most people won’t understand where I’m at, and so I don’t talk about it. I just push it into a corner. For the first time in my life, the majority of people I interact with, love, and am close to are unchurched. It doesn’t change how much I love them, but it’s hard to imagine that people who don’t want to go to church will understand that my heart is aching because I can’t find a church to go to. Maybe I’m not giving them enough credit for understanding me. Maybe I’m self-protecting because I’m afraid of being misunderstood and rejected. It’s hard to find hope in the midst of fear.

Tonight, there are no easy answers. Just hard questions… And a little flicker of hope.

About Sarah Salter


  1. Sista Sarah.. To me..you have always been what church is suppose to be.. you are quick to make sure if I blurt out(!@@#%^&*(+) something in the way I do because I dont as we say in the South “cuss” you have always been there.. If I have ever had a need or a prayer you have always been there since Cecille introduced us.. I know your blog was about hope.. but you give hope to so many people.. and what you do… to me… is church….. I know its hard to find that one that you are talking about…..And we both know that many a “un churched” people are there for you…I am probably a little bit off your “beaten path”… but I know that you will find this hope.. no matter what the fear.. I ain’t a writer like you.. but that’s my heart sista.

    Love ya

  2. Talking with you in two places is kinda fun – but at least here it will take a bit longer to get to 🙂

    Tend that flicker until it kindles a flame, girlfriend – you have someone here who is your male counterpart – I’ve been where you’ve been in a lot of ways – and you can always reach me.

  3. Sarah, it sounds like you are looking for what you had with Rick and Robert. If you can’t find what you are looking for, have you considered creating it yourself. Maybe you could start your own church with others who are Christians, but feel the way you do. I have not memorized a lot of bible verses, but I remember there is one where Jesus says that wherever there are people gathered in his name, he is there. Maybe you could use this blog to start an online church, maybe put up a verse and prayer every Sunday morning then check back Sunday night to see the responses. Sarah, you are a blessing to many and when you feel rejected by some, please remember that those people may very well feel uncomfortable with you because they are having a struggle with what is right for their lives, and you are an example of what they know they should be. You are a person who loves the Lord, and tries to accept the blessings that brings, but you are honest about your mistakes.

  4. I only have one disagreement with you. You said your post was “unfinished, unrighteous, unlovely…” I could grant you unfinished and maybe unlovely, but not unrighteous. The righteous shall live by faith. You haven’t given up on hope, you’re processing and that’s not a bad thing at all. Questioning isn’t bad. Figuring out where you are isn’t bad. All that sounds pretty righteous to me. Staying stuck is a bad option, but even in seeing and evaluating where you are, you’re moving forward. Let Him and others help you deal with the pain, rejection, and other things so you can launch into the next things God has for you. He’s not through with you for sure and your best days are still ahead, and yes, I do believe they’ll be connected to a local church as well. Maybe not this week or this month, but then again, you never know how God will show Himself as you stay open. I have rambled enough… 🙂 You know I’m praying, Sarah!

  5. Sarah Salter says:

    Barbara, I’ve just always tried to be the kind of person that I’d want to be in church with. Maybe it’s worked a little bit along the way. Thank you for your encouragement! You’ve seen me at my best, and you’ve seen me at my worst. You’ve Mama’ed me when I needed it (like when I was sick and you kept me in bed by threats of violence), and sistered me when I needed it. I’m glad you’ve been in my life, B. Stick around. There’s more adventures ahead! 🙂

  6. Sarah Salter says:

    Sharon, thanks for coming by and sharing your thoughts! I do miss what I had with Rick and Robert. I’m so grateful for that season of my life! And in some ways, I have a community here that encourages me. (The response to this post is a great reminder of that!) But I also feel like I need to have a pastor for a while. And it’s been a while now since I had one. But Portland’s a big place (compared to the little towns I lived in back in NC, for sure!), and I haven’t checked all of the churches yet. I’ll find something. Thanks again for your encouragement, Sharon! I miss you! 🙂

  7. Sarah Salter says:

    Ha! I laugh, Jason, because that’s pretty much what God said to me. As I sat and talked (fairly angrily) to Him, He told me to ease up on myself a little bit. That I’m seeking, and that’s the important thing. (That’s a paraphrase.) 🙂 I appreciate you, Jason! I’m thankful for your friendship, and I’m praying for y’all, too, as you get settled into this new life and ministry that God has for you.

  8. I discovered you at Rick’s Saturday Shortcuts. Hope is often all we have but we must cling to it anyway for God never fails!

  9. Sarah Salter says:

    Thanks, Hazel! 🙂

  10. I was reminded that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” So while we cling to hope we trust that the answer will be quick in getting here.

  11. Sarah Salter says:

    Hazel, I was reminded this week that often hope comes through trials and tribulation. It makes us stronger in the end. And I think that, for me, there’s been hope around me. I’ve just been keeping so busy that I couldn’t look up and see it.

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