I don’t remember when she said it. We could have been skipping class to run for Thai food, or illustrating scripture with color pastels, surrounded by coffee mugs and books—it was our last year of high school, and that is all I know. But we were talking about the future and what it all would look like, and her voice got quiet. With eyes peering over my shoulder at some imaginary focal point, she mused,
I think I will have to learn what it means to do faith when it is just the two of us–God and I–sitting at the table.
[The funny part of this, of course, is that this came at a time before the word “table” would ring a little differently for both of us as we separately wandered a bit from our Charismatic home base, she to be confirmed in the Catholic church a few years later, and I to find a home in liturgy a few years after that.]
And it’s stuck with me all this time. I find myself examining, asking, if the table was set for two, would it be enough?
And it is an important question to ask. At some point, we all must wonder whether or not our faith utterly depends on our friends, our family, our favorite authors and speakers. At some point, it will come down to rock or shifting sand.
And there have been stretches where He and I just sit, after everyone has left, as I pass the time by pushing the peas around my plate, not lifting my eyes, not really knowing what to say. Slowly, I learned how to open my mouth.
But can I also say the simple, even trite thing?
I still need people. I need you.
I need you to tell me that you hear Him., that you weep uncontrollably during Mass, that you see that Christ plays in ten thousand places, that there is beauty in the broken moments, that you are surprised by the sacred in the everyday, but that you know it in the prayers and psalms as well.
And I need you to tell me you are angry with Him, that your fists and tears both meet the earth, that you can’t see past the injury, that you wish it was universalism but it isn’t, that you’re not always OK, that He seems far, you seem far, the stars seem meaningless.
And I do not need to hear these things simply for the sake of self-justification, so that I feel more “normal,” or even to keep loneliness at bay.
Well, maybe a little bit. I do need to know that it is all the same story, but it also helps me to flip between the pages. When you sing those things over me, I know that I will one day sing again, that joy comes with the morning. When you whisper them shakily in the dark, I know that we have fallen, that I will fall and fail again and again; so I pray Christ have mercy, and know that He carries us still.
It is good to learn how to sit with Him alone, but it is also good to extend the invitation, to know that the communion of the saints is here, that we can and should gather ‘round—to eat and to drink, to weep and love and sing.