Church, in other words.
It takes me a bit of time to do something about it. Instead I scan the wall opposite, the one filled with pictures of my tribe, my places, my colors. Yesterday I added two angels to the throng: each plaqued, one Italian, one Spanish, both old. Finally I settle on watching the seconds tic until I can’t stand it anymore, as per my morning habit of late, stubbornly in place of prayer.
For days, I have counted tics more than I have counted graces, letting the tiny sound replace the silence, instead of true rest, true quiet, true stillness.
So today I continue to watch and listen to the clock only, until the cinnamon bun thing is stronger than the bed’s magnetism. Somehow, I propel myself all the way to the grocery.
My cashier tells me her teenage daughter is pregnant. I listen, she tells me the hypocrisy is the lowest blow. She’s not sure how they’ll move on.
I tell her I’m sorry, that she’ll be in my prayers this morning. It’s quick, just as she’s saying, “It’ll all turn out alright.”
I’m at my car before I realize I might’ve said a true thing.
As I’m icing the pastries, I think of the old practice of fasting before receiving Eucharist that I fell into without knowing it several months ago. The idea is that the small fast reminds us for Whom we are truly hungry.
I lick my fingers and polish off two warm, overdone rolls before getting dressed.
Slipping into the fifth row from the back at St. Paul’s, I juggle with the hymnal to jump in on the last line of the first song. I’m late, the cross has passed. We begin the Gloria, and I notice the mascara stain on the tips of my fingers. Somehow, I knew, looking into the mirror half an hour ago, that it wouldn’t be worth it. And I was right–the eye makeup didn’t make the car ride.
It’s been a low week.
But I think one nice thing about an Episcopal church is that you don’t have to be decent, not really, ’til halfway through the service. You can afford to be a total mess through the songs, the scripture readings, and even the sermon. It’s a long way to the Passing of the Peace. And anyway, if I lost it during all that peace-passing? Here, I think it would probably be alright.
And that’s good, I guess, because I choke through the psalm–
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God…
Amma Jo happens to address the psalm reading at length during her sermon. She talks about Kingdom in terms of home–the one we wait for, the one we cultivate now, the table we lay with Christ.
She tells us in her endearing audiobook lilt,
“The irony of a life with God is that home is not for us a static place. Rather our home is a journey–the psalmist calls it ‘the pilgrim’s way’…Our home is a walk that will take us through desolate valleys and up mountains. But always, God, Who is our Home, will walk that way with us.”
The peace of this waits to wash over me until Jo says nearly the same thing when she prays over the parish’s children starting school:
May they know that wherever they journey is never far from You.
Oddly, these two small moments address the little heresy that crept into my head in the form of a question earlier in the week, on another tic-counting, bed-staying morning:
Is it the same God? The same One Who met me in the glorious desert as on the staircase of the English building, as on that creaking, coffee-stained back porch? Who sat at the foot of my bed that morning?
Is He the same God? My childish heart whispered to the turquoise clock.
In church, I lift my eyes up to the stained glass at the altar. I gasp small, realizing for the first time ever that the descending dove set in a cross with arms of equal length almost exactly mirrors the pendant given to me when I was baptized years ago. The one I just found again in my dresser drawer, the one I’ve thumbed over a fifty times this week. I can’t breathe for the overlap.
Remember your baptism.
I realize the symbol is old, and not altogether rare. [I mean, I have a wallful of crosses with doves in the middle, collected over the years–a story for another time.]
But I needed the reminder–the reminders–that He completes the circle always, that He is the same God who sits at the foot of my bed even when I have trouble leaving it, that He really is the one for Whom I hunger on the journey, the journey Home.