Seeing the Steeple
The Midwest is known for many wonderful attributes. Growing up in South Dakota and now residing in Iowa, I feel qualifies me to speak knowledgeably about the area that we proudly call home. I also have had the privilege of spending some time temporally living outside of the Midwest, which has allowed me to better understand the perspective of the Midwest that outsiders have of us.
One of the first attributes that always comes to mind is our Midwest work ethic. A Midwest Work Ethic grits its teeth and gets the job the done. A Midwest work ethic selflessly pitches in wherever help is needed simply because it’s the right thing to do. We have built this reputation over decades of lives lived, and along with that, we are also known for being Midwest Nice along the way. To me, Midwest Nice is simply a genuine and heartfelt concern for others. A concern for their comfort and well-being that we go to great lengths to ensure.
On the flipside, I’ve noticed that one thing the Midwest is not known for is its scenic drives. I’ve never heard a person say, “I can’t wait to drive to Yellowstone National Park and finally see all the billboards along I-90 in South Dakota.” Most of the people I’ve spoken with, that reside outside of the Midwest, see this area as something to drive through to get to where they are going. Maybe this is an unchanging fact about the Midwest, or maybe after living here for a while you begin to appreciate its subtle beauty.
Looking back through my life I can remember a distinct feature that always drew my attention while traveling throughout the Midwest. Whether I was in the Dakota’s, Iowa, or anywhere else, I can always remember looking out towards the horizon, which tends to be flat in the Midwest. I remember looking out the car window to the horizon and seeing all the small towns passing by us along the way.
As we would begin to approach each town you, could always see the grayish black outline of the trees and the buildings from a distance, but what I always loved seeing was the steeples rising up out of that gray shadow below. This is a simple and beautiful feature I love about our landscape. There is something to being able to see God’s houses of worship rising up above the communities where they reside.
I cannot really explain why, but I can look back and say that throughout all my life, seeing church steeples rising out from among each of these scattered communities has always provided me with great comfort. It still does to this day.
There is not a person alive today who can disagree with the fact that the landscape of the church has been changing. Just in my lifetime I have seen society’s view of the Church change in terms of relevance and priority. This current reality is what jogs my memory back to imagery of the church steeple.
Church steeples have always served as a symbolic reminder to point to what is truly important in this life… to what is eternal and holy. Church steeples point to the sky reminding us of God’s great provision, not only in this life, but more importantly in the life to come.
Often times we see crosses at the top of these church steeples letting us know that there is a way… a better way to see this world and a better way to live these lives we have be given. Jesus Christ is that way, that truth, and that life that rises up above the gray and dull horizon of this world. His sacrifice and His teaching give the Church purpose and meaning in this life, and THAT will never change.
But something has changed for me, especially since becoming a pastor. What has changed is what I appreciate as I look off into the horizon towards any Midwest town. What I appreciate and truly value is the people below the steeple; the people below who live, work, and play throughout this life.
The people have always been and will always be God’s Church. The Church is an organic and living movement in this life composed of people who see Jesus and His Spirit working His way throughout the details of their lives. This is what truly points people to God. God uses your words and your actions as they will rise up above the steeples reaching heavenly heights and giving glory to God during this short breath of life. I personally want to thank all of God’s people who work and live their lives as God’s Church. You point us all to something better and to something greater. You point us to our Savior!