I can’t carry a tune, but I love to sing. Maybe that’s part of why I love to go to church on Sundays: I get to sing.
But I also get to watch my tinies dance, I get to hush and chase our baby across the back of the gym behind the folding chairs, I get to hold my son in my arms and sing the words into his coarse blonde hair. I get to hold new babies and give their worn-out, sleep-deprived mamas a rest. I get to stretch out my arms wide in the worship I always feel when I’m walking in the woods, and I get to show my face to the rafters, throat exposed, unafraid. I get to cry and cry and cry, and sing poetry and promises.
Sunday comes and I am longing for church. (Even the typing of that sentence, let alone the living truth of it, is enough to make me laugh at how God has surprised me, my bluff so completely been called.) But it’s true. I remember my Dad used to say, “I’m in the world all week-long, and boy, I can’t wait to get back with my family.” I feel that way: I feel like I can’t wait to hang out with people who love Jesus, people who long to see God’s kingdom come, and His will, done, right now.
So much of our lives in this world feels like exile, and we’re making a home in a faraway land, and so every time I get to be with my people (because the people who love God, these are my people), it’s a lush oasis in the desert, a refill, a taste of living water, a glimpse of Jesus with skin on.
I don’t think we need an institution and a Sunday to find community, no way; but in this season, that’s how it is for me, and I’m okay with that. I’m welcoming the strangeness of it, and rejoicing at the gift of home groups, Sunday afternoon potlucks with chili and soup and the Spirit. Today, I signed up to teach Sunday school because my daughter asked me to do it, and I figured I better say “yes” because all too soon, she wont’ want me teaching her class, and so today, I’m going to show up. I start in a couple of weeks. I remember how my mother handed out crayons in my own Sunday school class, and something feels right about this decision.
I need the Church, in all its iterations and changeability and failings, I need community in all its difficulty and brokenness and beauty.
I need it because being friends on Facebook isn’t enough when you’re really supposed to be family, and a text message isn’t the same as wrapping your arms around each other, and boldly going to the throne of Grace together, breath to breath.
A song on my iPod isn’t the same as singing at the top of my off-key voice in a crowd as my friend sings the songs of my faith, it’s not the same as stomping my own feet, and a podcast isn’t the same as community preaching, eye to eye with your friends. And commenting on blogs isn’t the same as face-to-face conversation, it’s hard to call someone a heretic to their face.
And talking about or reading about or studying community, and grace, and the radical act of staying put for once in our addicted-to-change, afraid-of-commitment culture, and embracing mess and noise and family and prayer and friendship, well, it isn’t the same as living it in our real walking-around lives, is it?
And so this morning, I get to sing.
And I get to taste the salt of my own tears, and hear, with my own ears, my voice proclaiming the goodness of my God. And I get to pull out my old hankie and press half-moons of mascara into the worn cotton, because it’s so true, He’s been so good to me, and I can hardly breathe for His faithfulness, so I exhale, at long last, exhale.
I get to be reminded of my freedom, and his love and mercy, and then, right while I’m singing, today, bless the Lord oh my soul, my six-year-old, my Anne-girl, she reaches out and holds my hand.
She’s always watching me, and she’s watched me worship for her entire life, and today I could see her, marking this moment, and I thought: if there is one memory she has of me, please, God, let it be this one.
Let her remember this Sunday in a school gym, with a bunch of other misfits, we’re all longing for Jesus, we’re all longing to be seen. Let her remember how we had breakfast and I yelled at everyone for the mess in the house, and I put a stew in the crockpot, and we arrived late at church.
And let her remember how I cried my mascara right off, and how I was such a gigantic mess in my real life but I kept trying anyway because I had stars in my eyes, wild in love, and how I sang too-loud, and clutched my breast with relief at being reminded again how He is faithful. And let her remember that He is enough, because He was enough for her crazy imperfect mama.
And at that moment, then my Anne, she squeezed my hand, and smiled at me, tenderly, like she knew me, like she gained part of her woman-soul before my eyes, and she started to sing right out loud, our voices rising together, her eyes never leaving my tear-stained joyful face.