One of my favorite coffee shops in Atlanta has a chalkboard in their bathroom. They encourage free speech from patrons by keeping the bathroom fully supplied with chalk. Often, people scribble their names or trivial phrases such as, “be happy” or “you suck.” For the most part, the chalkboard does not serve for philosophical or theological content. A few nights ago I was working late at the coffee shop and wandered in to use the bathroom. Before exiting back to my hot cup of coffee and laptop, I stopped and turned toward the chalkboard. My heart was pounding and my palms sweating, as if I was about to commit a crime. I took a wet paper towel to the board and erased all the colorful sketches and words until the board was completely black. I then picked up a small piece of purple chalk and wrote, “Please come join me at Central United Church of Christ. We are a liberal, open and affirming congregation. Everyone is welcome.” I tossed the chalk down and walked out hoping not to be noticed for taking “too long” in the bathroom. I sat back down at my small table in the corner feeling accomplished.
Today, I am back at that same coffee shop and my message has been erased from the chalkboard. Maybe no one saw it? Maybe the staff saw it while cleaning up that night and erased it immediately or maybe someone saw it and it made them consider finding a church again? Was anyone angry when they saw the invitation because it brought up old wounds from past church experiences? Maybe someone read it who has been wanting to find a Christian community and my message lead them to search our website for more information?
The part that I wasn’t prepared for was how nervous I felt while writing on the chalkboard. Why do we as Christians want to hide our zeal? I wasn’t doing anything wrong but I still felt like I was doing something shameful. What does it mean for us to keep making ourselves uncomfortable by pushing hospitality and welcome despite what other’s think?