I have distinct memories of being a child and following along with my mom’s exercise tapes. Yes…tapes. The VHS tape would come fresh out of the snap closure box then was oh so snugly pulled into the VCR. Sometimes it was The Firm, with a room full of toned thighed women pulsing their ankle weights; and sometimes it would be Jazzercise and we would grapevine our way up and over the multilayered, multicolored Step bench. No matter what video made its way on screen there was always something besides white scrunch socks in common…the modified version. “For this next move, if it’s too hard, watch Susan for a modified version.” While the instructor proceeded with the full exercise, to her right and back only a few feet, Susan was right there to remind you that there is another way to start. While modern production, music and moves in today’s workout apps have replaced the VHS, one thing still remains. No one can see you exercise from home, and there is always the modified version. Susan has been replaced with Taylor or Mia or Courtney, but her archetype is still there and as faithful as ever showing us that even if we’re sloppy, there is always somewhere to start.
I am constantly reminded that nothing will get done without simply starting. Sometimes you just have to start in a modified version of what you think it’s supposed to look like.
A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a friend who is new to faith. New to church and new to believing in anything that resembles God in general. Part of the reason she was timid about trying a church was that she didn’t remember any Bible stories, and didn’t know where to start. So many people of my generation are turned away from faith because of church hurt. Somewhere on a Sunday long ago, someone made them feel shame, made them feel less than, and planted a seed of disbelief. An incredibly imperfect leader chose to be a judge instead of sitting in incredible human imperfection with their student. That seed grew along the way until it cracked the foundation of their faith and turned them away from it. I have been that student and I have been that adult with the cracked foundation. I probably still am in some ways.
What I do know now that I didn’t know then, is that it doesn’t have to be perfect faith. You can also have the modified version. My friend’s curiosity alone, was that modified version. The seed of curiosity that there is something bigger and something more. Her job as a student of faith is not to memorize, not to recite, and not to lead. It is at first simply to seek, to be still and to know. What if she could just picture that Sunday school instructor who caused the church hurt, and pictured God just to the right and a few feet back, faithfully showing her that there is a modified version? An imperfect, flabbier, slower, sloppier way to believe, and that it was a safe place to start because sometimes it’s the only place to start. Your scripture memorization doesn’t have to be toned, and your biblical knowledge doesn’t have to stack up like a Jazzercise step bench.
I realized this morning when I told my kids what today meant, that it may have been the first time I could really explain it. Really explain what Good Friday represents and why we celebrate it and that it’s okay that it took me 36 years. If you don’t know what this Easter weekend is about, Google it and read the greatest story ever told. Sit with it, let it sink in and ask questions. Be curious about learning more of it. Then you’ve started. Even if you were curious about attending church this 2020 Easter weekend, there is no reason to be timid because there is a pandemic and you can’t go anyway. Nothing, not even a pandemic can slow the seed of faith, and hold back curiosity. Just like a good ole’ jazzercise video, you can do the modified version from the comfort of home. Thank you Susan and Thank you Jesus. We can be sloppy and still start.