Meet Collin Simula. He lives in Columbus, Ohio, and is a part of Central Vineyard church. He is a 30-year-old graphic designer, and a happily married father of three. Collin has spent his whole life in the Church, in every denomination imaginable, from Calvinist/Christian Reformed churches, to a Baptist high school, being a part of Rob Bell’s Mars Hill, to moving to Ohio and starting to go to pentecostal/charismatic churches, before ending up in the Vineyard movement. Here’s something he wrote recently on his blog.
I’ll never forget that look she gave me. The fear and deep sadness in her eyes—that image is permanently seared into my brain.
“What the hell are we doing here?”
At my small Independent Fundamentalist Baptist high school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the teachers and administration seemed well-meaning for the most part. Besides the fake Mandy-Moore-in-Saved-type characters, I always felt like my friends—and especially my teachers—really cared about me and my education.
But I was one of the few lower-income kids, and I always felt like I really couldn’t get ahead of my wealthy counterparts. I didn’t talk like them. I didn’t dress like them. And I didn’t care like them.
I struggled to keep my grades up—part laziness, part apathy from feeling like an outcast most of the time—and I always jumped at extra credit for any class when it was available. As a slacker-type student, my grades were sustained by the opportunity of extra credit.
My twelfth-grade Bible teacher was one of the oldest and most respected teachers at the school. Everyone talked about him in the highest regard. He’d change every kid’s life that came through that class. He’d get them excited about doing missionary work. He’d get them passionate about fighting in whatever current culture war was going on. He’d help them find purpose in their lives beyond just getting ready for college. He was after God’s will for them.
Beyond that, he had the most infectious old-guy happiness. He was carefree and jolly all the time. Full of grandpa-jokes and encouraging squeezes on the shoulder.
In his class, there was always extra credit available for the taking. You and one or two others would sign up for a time slot, usually a Tuesday or Thursday morning, grab one of the handmade “ABORTION IS MURDER” or “THOU SHALT NOT KILL” signs, and head on down to the local clinic. It seemed to make sense to me. Abortion was wrong, and I needed better grades. It’s a win-win.
That Tuesday morning it was just me and one other slacking student. I remember it was beautiful that day—probably March or April. It was sunny and 65 degrees. We got out of the car and unfolded our signs. We stood there. And stood there.
And stood there.
A young girl started walking across the parking lot. Alone. She couldn’t have been 16 even. She was hurried and kept her head down.
“This is why we came here,” I thought to myself. I held the sign up and said “HEY!”
She looked up at me. Her look went straight into my heart. It was as if I immediately felt all of her hurt as if it was my own. Her guilt, her shame, her sadness, her fear. All mine now. She turned away and kept walking into the clinic.
My friend and I lowered our signs and looked at each other. The silence was deafening. After what seemed like an eternity, I spoke to him.
“What the hell are we doing here?”
We got in the car and went to Subway. Neither of us had an appetite anymore, but we couldn’t go back to school yet because we hadn’t served out our two-hour time slot. We sat at Subway and barely talked, but we both knew deep inside that what we were doing was the exact opposite of grace, mercy, and love.
I don’t know that girl’s story, where she is now, or if she even went through with it. I can’t be sure, but I can imagine that my actions deeply hurt her heart. I’ve played that scenario over and over in my head enough to see that.
What I know is that I murdered a part of my heart that day.
I missed my chance to make her feel loved. I missed the chance to show her what the grace of the merciful God I believed in looked like.
I learned that hatred can take on the sincerest form of piety. And that the sincerest form of piety can take on the childish pursuit of better grades.
Christ have mercy.