Once she loved me. She had held my face and known me like a mother knows a child: the smirk, the thumb smearing dirt from the face, leaning her forehead into mine. She was with me. She put her hand on my back and prayed for me deep. She made a home for me, served hot bread and good wine, but it’s been a long time.
Our baby has been sick again, and I’ve travelled. I’ve fallen in love with Jesus’ people from all over. My brothers and sisters here have had to divide and conquer. I don’t have a group here anymore. On Sunday mornings, I’ve gone back to her, and when she opened the door, she didn’t know my name, and I had a hard time recognizing her face.
I haven’t known how to find my way back home.
Waking in the morning, waiting for the coffee, I’m not sure the exact thing that makes me so angry. It feels chronic, like green eyes and Scottish blood. My heart beats like stomping feet. I pour the drink and go to the quiet room for my routine time alone, my quiet time. I’ve said that I’m not afraid anymore. I threw fear off like an ugly coat. I’m afraid my fear turned to anger. I peal it back – down to the anger. Down to the fear beneath. The fear that always, every single time, opposes love.
This pilgrim thing is not my favorite part.
I cling to the ones who share my strange taste in music. I cling to those of you who write in the same vein. I touch the spines of my favorite books like pictures of old friends. Once a couple asked why I don’t ever just write what I mean. I cling to you okay with the I-don’t-knows. I keep kilter with the ones who are a little off a rocker, more comfortable on porches with ashtrays and melting ice cubes.
I don’t belong here. I’m the girl from the woods with a Bible in her hand, and I don’t always understand why I don’t much feel at home.
I walk with Jesus, and the more I do, the more homesick I am. Are you a wanderer, too?
I have friends who have never understood the struggle with love for church. I’m not sure people understand that I don’t mean THE church. The picture I have of the spotless bride of Christ (she is me), and then that after party? Oh I am so good with that. I love her now and forever. It’s just the going to church thing, like it’s a place on a mountain where God hovers like a cloud.
Church is not what happens on Sunday mornings, is it? Is it?
Maybe it is. Maybe that’s a big part of it. Maybe I wanted it to be the whole. Maybe I wanted Sunday mornings to mean nothing at all.
If a hammered dulcimer plays, you can guarantee that my husband and I are about three seconds from a good lip quiver, because hammered dulcimers sound like Rich Mullins, and his music points home. At church, Josh had the dulcimer, and Seth had guitar, and then Shelly put her hands in the air exactly how I know we’ll all be doing when we see Jesus face to face. We were throne-room singing. That’s usually why I go.
When I first sat down, I looked around and saw in the sea of people only two that I know. But next to me were two of the only people of color in the room. At the awkward meet-and-greet part, I couldn’t place her accent, but she’s not from anywhere close to here. I wondered how far away from home she felt, her Spirit-Filled Bible in her lap. I felt close to her.
On my other side came to sit one of our elders, and he is one of those tender-tough ones, looks like he could beat your face in or kiss it – either one. When we sang our Rich Mullins, he might have been deaf for the tones, but he sang like he had written every word. I fell in love with him there, a man who is tender-tough. When I turned to him at the awkward meet-and-greet, he said my name and asked of my sons.
I was angry because church hasn’t felt like home in a long time. I’m starting to think it was never meant to feel like home, not any more than Rich’s music and my Mama’s banana pudding. But at church, when I got Titus early from nursery, and I asked the people in the back to pray, he limped his unfed body into mine like he would fall asleep. They gathered around us, and one whispered over us in praise. One said Jesus is Healer; that is His name. One said Seth and I were brought together to bring forth a godly generation. One prayed against the fear and brought the Bible verses out. They put their hands on my back, called me Moses.
Once in a while you find yourself in the arms of your broken church, and she looks exactly like THE church, and THE church looks like Jesus. It’s worth pressing on, going to commune with the homesick ones, going to find a hand to hold, a bag to carry, wine to taste.
I am a pilgrim, and I get so homesick.
Little church, you don’t have to know my name to be beautiful. I just want to see Jesus. Let me be like the child to you.
Suffer me not.