Brian went to church early, he’s studying the book of John with a bunch of guys, so I loaded up the tinies early, so I could grab a Starbucks from the drive-thru, but it was too early so we drove around, looking at cows in the fields. Joe thinks that black and white cows are boy cows, I’ve given up trying to convince him otherwise. I spilled coffee on myself. Sometimes it’s hard for me to go to church, I skip every week or so. I like my own time, too, I like my space.
We sang songs, I do love to sing in church. I can’t carry a tune but communal singing is going away from our world, and so I love to sing along, almost all of the Bible verses I’ve memorized are in songs. Anne spins and spins in the back of the church, her arms outstretched, Joe does jerky jumping moves, shaking and wriggling, Evelynn stomps, the music washes over them and they have this freedom to move that I envy, this connection with their physical self to worship that I can hardly remember. But my bones remember and somehow, my feet want to dance, its too bad I won’t let them. I watch my tinies dance, and every once in a while, I stretch my arms up and out, I feel my whole body expand with praise, with gratitude, with love, with hope, I’m singing out ahead of my own self. Even the rocks cry out, the trees clap their hands.
Evelyn wouldn’t sit still for a second, she’s at that 14-month-old stage when being held is an absolute affront to her entire existence, so she squirms and hollers and thrashes but the second she’s on the ground, she hollers to be picked up again. Joe accidentally kicked over my half-drunk coffee, Brian had to run out for paper towels to mop up the gym floor, right during the slow songs, we apologised too much, too loud.
I sat alone for preaching, all the tinies and Brian at Sunday school, I was unwilling to haul myself stuff elsewhere to sit with friends. Ten minutes into the sermon, I had to dig through my purse for my grocery list, I needed paper to write some of this down. It was good, good news, just plain Gospel, but when it comes from humble people, just like me, I listen more, somehow. I’m kind of over slick preachers.
One of our pastors, Adam, has discovered the American word “y’all” and thinks it’s the best word ever. (When we left our church in Texas, among many gifts that were given, we received an wooden cut-out of the word “Y’all” and we still have it up in our house, a prized treasure. I miss the word y’all, I miss the drawling sound of it, I miss the meaning of it – don’t even get me started about the wonder of “all y’all”…). Adam thinks that the Bible is a communal “you” so it’s full of y’all moments – when God uses the word “you” it usually means all of us, together, the communal “you”. The Canadians looked a little blank but I got it. Thanks, Texas.
At the end of his sermon, I didn’t have any space left on my paper, it was filled up. He was talking about the profound disappointment so many of us feel in this life, with this life, with pain, sickness, death, disease and so on. He talked about how God seeks to redeem those things but he is doing it thorugh his people. We’re it – which is terrifying and wonderful and beautiful and redemptive and powerful and holy and daily. One of the things I like so much about church right now is that it doesn’t feel like a crowd, it feels like community, like we’re all bringing something, we’re all feeding and being fed somehow.
I like how I feel when I’m with these people, these people that love God well.
Adam invited people to stand if they wanted prayer. I never stand, asking. I always sit back, I always hang back, I always observe, I am satisfied with my quiet, solitary prayers, surely I don’t need anything from anyone else. I feel uncomfortable putting myself out there in these situations, half because I’m an introvert, but half is because I have baggage, I know, about all of this church stuff, and I question and I doubt and I cross my arms in my soul, I don’t trust any of you.
I didn’t think too much today, but suddenly, I was there at the front, admitting I need, I need, I need – something, prayer, God, hope, wisdom, all of it. I regretted coming forward. I was so scared and exposed and vulnerable, but someone was there with me and they prayed and I cried and cried and cried. I guess I needed to cry about a few things and there was a beautiful woman there, ministering life to me, holding my hands, handing my tissues, crying with me. I came in ashes and mourning, I left with beauty and joy. It’s nice to admit I don’t have it – or much – figured out, that I need Jesus and I need you and we need each other, we’re all saving each other somehow.
Some of my greatest wounds have come from Church. And so I suppose it makes sense that some of my greatest healing would come through Church as well. Every small victory, every small weight of bitter baggage and hurt I unpack in the presence and fulness of the Spirit and in community, it brings healing and lightness to me. I keep taking steps towards the gathered Body, all of us, world-wide, once-bit-twice-shy over and over again, I feel hesitant, and every time, I’m reminded that this life in the spirit, it is a communal life, it is a life together, it is a life of y’all.
Because the Church isn’t an institution, it isn’t four walls, it isn’t a downloadable Faith Statement with appropriate footnotes that you sign your name to, it isn’t a membership list, it isn’t Sundays at 10AM. The Church is simply us, the people of God, gathered together and sent out We’re a family, not an organization. You don’t get to be a Christian by yourself, I’m learning, and I don’t know if I was crying in church today because of the burdens we are all carrying, or if I was crying because someone was there to share the load.