True to my word, I packed up Baby N and went to church this morning. While we were there I observed 3 good things:
1. Acceptance, support, gentleness, comforting, sharing - as the community gathered around Sweet Miss K whose mother died a few weeks ago. Her mom was only recently diagnosed with cancer and we had such hopes that she would prevail. Sweet Miss K is somewhat fragile, even at her best, so the sudden loss of her mother is such a great grief. K entered the sanctuary this morning and immediately started sobbing. "I should leave," I overheard her say to the woman she was sitting with. "No dear, everyone here knows, everyone here loves you. Stay." I held Baby N on my lap and my tears let down like milk.
2. Several folks extended the comfort of telling Sweet Miss K that her mother was in a much better place, she was with Jesus. K cried back, "But where does that leave me? I'm so sad. I miss her so much." AMEN Sweet Miss K is so brave to tell the truth about grief. It's not about who we've lost, they're the lucky ones, it's about us left here without them. How are we supposed to endure the loss when the one who has always helped us through is the one that we've lost? The comforters should know better than to offer flimsy facades. Grief won't be covered up; it will make itself known. Better to face it truthfully (and in good company).
3. Baby N delivered a massive, stinking diaper 30 minutes into the service. Fortunately, we had already removed ourselves to the Family Room adjacent to the sanctuary. I cleaned him up and we stayed put for the rest of the service. I'm grateful for the refuge of that little room. I love these people. I love seeing them support K. I love the altar piled high with goods for the food bank. But I chafe & writhe & start gnawing the furniture in reaction to so much of Christian religion. The hymns are loaded with words & concepts that I reject - "blood" that saves, "I am your son" with no alternatives ever, and a sermon about God shining through the holes in our lives, shredded by loss & trauma... and while that may be true & I might even accept it in an intimate conversation, from the pulpit it sounded canned, like a sound bite.
I lay back on the floor of the Family Room while Baby N played with the toys there. They built this little room when we started attending. It was dedicated as part of N's dedication service. I'm struggling to reconcile the community that I value with the religion that I reject. I'm holding tightly to the compassion they show to each other and to the folks in our neighborhood. I'm holding tightly to the stories they share of God's presence in their lives. I'm trying to respect and understand their regard for the religion.
The religion gets in the way for me. As it has for years. In the past, I've allowed that obstruction to keep me outside the community of believers. But I want to be able to move in and out:
1) I want a personal practice that centers & sustains me;
2) I want kindreds with whom to share frustration, creativity, challenges, study, celebration...;
3) I want to be part of the broader faith community, to hear the good they draw from the religion, to celebrate and grieve with them, to be loved among them, to be included even though I believe differently, to share some of the presence I meet and the good I draw from my faith.