Tuesday, January 27

Seminary Diaries: you aren't there

I've skipped church for a couple of weeks.  Not for any specific reasons, just that between a two week (meets every day) class, doing the laundry, going to orientation, interviews for jobs, and wrapping up last semester's notes, Sunday mornings have been my only retreat.  Extra rest, a decent, not-on-the-fly breakfast, a good walk, and a moment or two to breathe.

So, this past weekend I decided it was time to rejoin the routine and head back to Sunday morning worship.  This week marked the beginning of "seeing clients" at school, so I figured the extra encouragement would be helpful.  I still didn't want to get out of bed, still wanted to sleep and fry an egg instead of microwave oatmeal.  But, I went.

Even in the parking lot, Alex could tell I wasn't fully invested in my decision.  This particular Sunday was also the day for the "newbies" luncheon; a.k.a. sit around tables with strangers and put on some happy faces. (I know, I know, this is not their intent, at all. But it felt and was this awkward for the most part.)  "We could go walk around the outdoor mall?" he said.  No, no we can't trade Sunday morning church for a new pair of flats and a get-me-in-the-mood-for-spring blouse.  So, in we go.

We worshiped, we prayed, we fellowshipped, we listened.  And You weren't there.  I looked and listened and waited, and I couldn't find You.  You weren't in the words or the music; You weren't in the faces of others; You weren't even sitting in Scripture like I thought you would be.

One could blame this on my obvious disinterest, or maybe the fact that I'm sitting in struggle of my own. Or you could blame it on my vocational interest.  Either way, I'm not finding You in the Sunday morning rituals (while good and wonderful) like I'm "supposed" to.  I see You, more clearly, more real, more personal, in the faces of those who have been handed the reality of their brokenness; sitting in sadness, grief, fear, worry, and anger.  I see You in the people who have nothing left, the ones most of us pass by because their strife seems too heavy, too burdensome, too ugly.

And, truthfully, I still see joy and peace and comfort in these faces.  Maybe we're not celebrating, but we're struggling and suffering to find the Spirit within each of us. So, I believe You are celebrating.  I believe the tears, heartache, anger, frustration, and deep, dark thoughts of those of us in strife are more connected to you, than some of the smiles sitting in the pews.

It's not understandable by so many.  But, to me, I'm just not finding you in the songs, the prayers, the bulletins, or the message.  I'm finding you in the people who look like me; sitting and waiting through the difficulty of the human condition.  Sure, I know You love Your church and I know deep down I love her, too.  But, for now, I want to be surrounded by those who are leaning, running, and scraping their way towards you because life is in shambles.  To me, that's where You are, that's where I find You, and that is where I learn who You truly are.

"Here's some questions I've been asking myself; What if I forgive myself? What if  I was sorry?  But if I could go back in time, I wouldn't do a single thing differently. What if all the things I did, were the things that got me here?"
       -Wild, Reese Witherspoon & Cheryl Strayed

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