Thursday, February 21, 2008

Crying in Church

As an adult I find myself crying in church and I never have a handkerchief. Neither does my husband. (I confess I have a weakness for men who can easily tie things on the tops of cars and hand me a clean handkerchief when I need one -- maybe I will marry one of those guys in my next life).

Other than church I hardly ever cry, but crying got me started going back to church (Faith Journal: First Entry) and it has followed me into my pew.

At first I though it was just the stress of being mother to a growing family. When I came to church in those early years I would sit in a grateful daze. It was just so peaceful -- just sitting -- with the two little lala's in the back somewhere playing with the other baby Unitarians. The words and songs would just wash over me.

If I shut my eyes I got the same feeling I had when I was a child and we used to drive to Mt. Hood to go skiing. The car would be packed with gear and family, with parents, sibs and me there were eight. If I was lucky I would get a seat near a window and lean against my puffy ski jacket wadded up against the door as a pillow. I would be in and out of sleep, listening to the conversations in the car while the Oregon woods flashed by on either side. Every once in a while a vine maple would fill the window with a green, clean light as it fluttered in unselfconscious beauty. Those vine maples gave me a shiver; on a sunny day they glowed in among the dark woods.

The crying would come because I would relax into the space of church and then something would reach me like those vine maples. A story of pain would make it to my heart, and as open as I was, I would cry.

It still happens all the time. Now it is often a story about someone in my church community who I've known for a long time. Or maybe the choir sings a song that reminds me of something. There are a million different triggers but they reach me because of a certain receptivity that I have when I am there. The same story or song doesn't have the same power anywhere else.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

It happened at 12

What is it about twelve years old that brings such insights. At twelve, your brain must grow like a son-of-a-gun. You look like a kid. All the nobs and bumps on your face grow at different rates. Maybe you have braces and you don't make easy eye contact with adults. Adults still talk around you as if you don't understand them but now you suddenly do.

Twelve was when I stopped believing in God. I used to remember the moment but I don't anymore. Just that it happened at twelve and it was a reverse of Saul on the road to Damascus, one minute I believed and the next I did not. I doubt there was a blinding light just a feeling of emptiness and the click of the world making more sense.

I remember a year later spending the night with my best friend Sidney. Her Dad was on a date so we were alone in a house out in the woods. We were in bed telling stories when someone started walking around the house shining a flashlight in. We were terrified. The light from the flashlight swung wildly around the living room. We were in a loft bed-room looking down.

Sidney clutched my hand and started praying wildly out-loud. "Oh Jesus, Jesus, save us." Even in my terror, maybe because of my terror, I thought how wonderful it would be to cry out to the Lord with that sincerity. If we were murdered she would be praying to God while I would be looking directly into the eyes of my murderer. I had God envy and decided to start believing again.

For about two weeks I held belief in my mind while my heart really saw Sidney clutching my hand and praying. It was her faith that had touched me and gave me the strength to hold off my own reality for that length of time. I couldn't do it for longer than two weeks though -- hard as I tried.