For the first time, maybe ever, Last week, I could not sit in church through a service. I love my church. I love the idea of worshipping God. But these life circumstances I am facing, they were like a pile of tinder. My attitude was a spark.
I had a splitting head ache. The lights felt like icepicks going after my temples. The guitars were digging into my ears. The sound of the vocals grated, and the words were such a cruel joke to me right then.
I don’t actually think the band was doing anything different than it ever does.
But I wasn’t able to see how it all worked together, as I sat there. Recognizing how God is at the middle of everything, that can make that space sacred. But it wasn’t. Because I wasn’t able to see how it all worked together, as I sat there.
By “it” I mean the music. And also everything else.
I left the service and retreated to my car. I eased the seat back and shut my eyes and their was the crackle of fire, the rising of smoke.
It’s been a hard week. Yesterday, I went for a hike.
I do all of my best yelling at God in the outdoors.
I have yelled at God during rough times for a while now. Even before I was a Christian, I was a fan of Madeline L’Engle’s young adult fiction. In one of her books, a pastor counsels a teen-ager. He observes that God is big and tough and he can handle our anger.
As I have developed a relationship with Him, I have seen first hand the wisdom in that. I have found that all of our relationships flourish when we can be open about being upset. This does not mean rage is in the driver seat. But also, we can’t lock it away in the trunk like a kidnapping victim.
I was walking fast. I was, like the guy in that comedy movie (Dewey Cox, maybe?) walking hard. I was walking angry. When we are angry, we are hardwired for tunnel vision. I was not taking in the wholeness of where I was. I saw some things that were directly in front of me. And that was all.
Just as I couldn’t hear the beautiful thing that was made by the guitar, drum beat, and vocals intertwining, the wholeness of the forest was not soothing me at first. Usually it does. It’s not only the breeze, or the fresh air, or the sounds of a burbling river that do it. It’s the way they all come together.
Somewhere between me and God came the idea that walking is running in slow motion. It’s symbolic, some times, of fleeing. And I found, from somewhere, the courage to just sit. It was this little stone bench.
I realized what I needed to do was to hold the pain. Just sit with it. Stop running and own it and accept it.
We don’t have a word, I think, for when all your senses gather together to come into focus at the same time. We should.
As this focusing, this converging, happened to me on that bench, I had this sense that there was somebody sitting next to me. And He was holding my pain with me.
I know that I am halfway to that cheesy “footprints” parable. I wish I could say that Jesus carried me, and I am simultaneously repulsed by the cliché of all that. He didn’t carry me, though. He sat with me, and He held my pain with me. And everything seemed like maybe it was going to be o.k.
As I walked back, there was this little boy. He darted around like gravity had no claim on him. He moved in this awesomely unselfconscious dance. His arms and legs moving in ways that defied what our joints should do.
He was just a part of the whole thing. It was a perfect moment, watching his joy as the sunlight filtetred green through the canopies, as the freshened oxygen filled my lungs, as Jesus carried my pain with me.
Church was a lot better today.