Sunday morning, in the middle of what I imagined to be a particularly inspiring message;) I noticed a man walk in the door. In our building, the main aisle of the sanctuary leads through double doors through the narthex and through the front doors. If all of the doors are open, from where I teach, I can see into the parking lot. Or, in this case, I can see a man walk in 45 minutes late for the service.
The older, grey-haired man moved hesitantly inside the building, stopping for a moment at the pews. His presence distracted all of us, as it was designed to do. I welcomed him to “take a seat, brother.” His answer was to continue wordlessly down the aisle, towards me. I suppose I should’ve had a twinge of fear, I watch the news, after all. I didn’t, though. I felt nothing but curiosity. What was happening? How would this play out?
I asked him again to take a seat and, when he didn’t acknowledge my request, I drew back my fist and sunk it deep into his face, immediately erupting in a rush of blood… no, that’s not true at all. I did ask, he ignored, walked straight to me and turned around to begin his 2-minute sermon. He asked for 2 minutes (and took 4) to tell us about Jesus (perhaps figuring I had been neglecting my duty) in a Russian accent as thick as a Bond villain.
When he finished, he wouldn’t stay, as he was visiting all of the churches in town to give his message.
So, that happened.
Then, yesterday, I had the unbelievable honor of officiating a funeral service for a 90 year-old woman I had never met. The service was in a breathtaking stone monument at Fort Indiantown Gap National Cemetery on a cloudless day.
There is a sad dynamic that can occur on days like this, a judgment springing from the misguided notion that it is somehow selfish to mourn, that it is less spiritually faithful to acknowledge that your heart is broken. This is theology that has no basis in the Scriptures, so what I do in sacred spaces like this is give permission. I invite them to hold each other’s hands and walk into the most authentic spaces. We mourn and celebrate, weep and laugh. These tensions at hyper-significant moments are charged with the Divine, we must enter with our hearts fully exposed.
Feel this. And feel that. Miss her with every ounce of your being. And at the same time, dance in gratitude for having her at all. Everything matters. We are called to bring our honest, full selves to our relationships, especially the one with Our Creator. Do you think He doesn’t know??? Who told you to try to pretend? To try to hide? No, no, no, we bring it all, and give it to Him, and there (only there) find comfort, peace, life.
I love these things, where the lines between us are so blurry, sometimes they’re even invisible. We are truly present, here, now, together – it’s wonderful.
Now. The message I was giving when the mad Russian interrupted was on faith. The faith that believes the promises of God so deeply AND acts on them. The faith that allows us to say Yes to people, places, opportunities we otherwise wouldn’t, that we think are impossible. Maybe they are – certainly they are if we never try. I told a super-cool story about Elisha climbing onto a balance beam and reaching for my hand, taking for granted that it would be there – then I asked, “If you knew you had a hand that would be there, what would you be willing to try?”/What are your balance beams?
Would it be walking straight to the front of a church you’ve never been in, being seen as a complete weirdo?
Or would it be, despite the deafening voices in your head that tell you you’re nowhere close to good enough, agreeing to speak at a funeral for someone you’ve never met, where you feel hopelessly out of your league?
Who knows? Our beams are as different as we are, but we all have them, and sometimes it takes these sacred disruptions to notice.