Our church opened back up today for the first time in a really long time. Since we were asked to wear masks, I decided to really step up the eye makeup game. Not a good move. I pulled into the parking lot and saw a random member holding a sign that said “It’s good to see you!” There were several people holding those signs and guiding us to where we would park. I did not even make it to a parking space before I lost it. I grabbed a polka dotted party napkin from the van, dabbed my eyes, threw it in my purse and headed in.
I sat there with my family, “socially distanced” on the front row. Just being in that room…with other people…I lost it again. Then the worship started. I was almost completely unable to sing. I cried, good old fashioned ugly-cried through the entire worship service. I half cried/sniffled through the entire sermon. I cried on the way home.
Why? Because this has been hard. So hard. Life outside of church over the last several months has been hard. It’s been hard to wrestle with fear of worst case scenarios with my girls who have asthma. It’s been hard to navigate people’s cruelty to one another. It’s been hard to receive cold glares if you wear a mask inside a store and cold glares if you don’t. It’s been hard to work and do school and meals for a family and manage a home when everyone is in the house 24/7. It’s been hard to deal with anxiety that keeps you awake till the wee hours of the morning every night. It’s been hard to navigate summer break with kids who have been home for months already and nothing is open, and we’ve exhausted all of our ideas. It’s been hard to navigate what is happening racially in our country. It’s been hard to search my own heart. It’s been hard to maintain relationships with people when you can’t be together physically, and everyone is almost too depressed to even try. It’s been hard to get out of bed some mornings and live what feels like the same day on repeat. It’s been hard to watch the news because it is almost completely bad every time. Everything has been hard. And you know what else has been hard? My heart. I’ve been reading the Bible out of sheer force of habit and discipline. My heart has not been in it. I’ve been angry. Angry about this virus. Angry at people being so divisive over it. I’ve been angry about racism. I’ve been angry about being called a racist because of my own ethnicity. I’ve been angry at people destroying our beautiful cities and other people’s livelihoods. I’ve been angry that we haven’t been able to be in church for so long. I’ve been angry that we’ve been essentially alone and isolated. I’ve been angry because I have felt abandoned by the church. (Here is where someone will point out, “you are the church…the church is not a building” and while that is true, its still just been me and my immediate family in our house week after week after week, and it feels nothing like church. There’s a reason God asked us to do life in community). My heart has grown hard. Hard toward others and even toward God. I know that because of how I pray right now. A couple of weeks ago, I just said, “God, where are you? Why aren’t you fighting for us? Why are you silent?”
I thought that when we finally went back to church it was going to be the most joyous celebration, like the people of God coming home again. It feels more like limping off a battle field. I feel bruised, weary, shellshocked and wounded…but still home. I keep thinking of a line from a song that goes, “I know the end of the story. I come back from the wilderness, leaning on My Beloved.” That’s how I feel today. Like I can’t stand. I have to hold on for dear life because I am weak. How fitting that the words God gave me for 2020 were “absolute, unceasing, dependence.”
Today, I came home. God loves his daughters and sons enough not to let our hearts stay hard. I saw my people. I couldn’t even sing. But my people sang over me. In my weeping, I couldn’t lift my voice to worship, but my brothers and sisters worshipped over me and around me. And my heart softened. And I wept. And our pastor spoke truth over my heart, truth that I do not have the strength or faith to speak over myself right now. And that’s why this thing called church is such a gift. It is our home. It is our family. Outside of Jesus Himself, there is nothing more precious. We need this. It is grace.