Go to church.
I typed those three little worlds in my advent planning I was conjuring up.
Go to church. I read back what I had typed.
And instantly I burst into tears.
YOU DON’T GET ME, Church. You don’t understand me. I yelled.
I fell to my knees in the middle of the living room floor. I pressed my face to the couch and sat there weeping. I felt much like a child as I held my body in the upright fetal position, curled up and embracing the couch as if it was my altar, a place of safe sanctuary.
I wondered if this is how I might cling to the manger this year. So helpless and vulnerable but looking to the innocence of a baby; un-yet hurt, unharmed.
A baby is the best place to find refuge, I'm pretty sure of it. Because they don’t get it, not yet. They can’t even try to make sense of it, they haven’t been told and conformed to the ways of the world. It’s a connection so free from judgment, so unscathed.
This advent I want to sit by a baby.
Not the church.
But I know the church is calling me home. I know this.
You guys, I love the church.
I always have.
But I make the church uncomfortable.
The church doesn’t get that while I believe in faith and hope and miracles and a God of the impossible, I also deeply believe in a merciful God and in my deepest ache and need, I chose his kindness and his help.
It’s not often the church exercises it’s free will and chooses mercy. We typically pick hope and faith and miracles. And I like that. But often, we don’t like to say It’s too broken! It’s too goddamn broken, God. So I’m going to break that which is in theory whole, but so extraordinarily broken and I’m going to trust in your redeeming ways to actually make it whole.
It’s hard to admit it’s that bad, that broken.
But I did. I chose mercy.
I’m going to need you to hold my hand. I said over the phone as I drove myself over to St. Andrew’s Cathedral for the Sounds of Christmas by the Chamber Choir of Grand Rapids.
I parked, well a few too many blocks away, and was minutes behind the concert start time, so I found myself running what I coin the adult pitter patter – like where I’m not really running but my feet are scurrying. Feet fast, upper body in locked position. My purse dangling from my forearm, swishing back and forth with each gallup.
HEY KAYLEE! Amanda yelled as she saw me bolting for the door. A true good friend she had been waiting for my late arriving ass. It scared the complete and total holiday spirits right out of me as I sprung backwards to see her ‘round the corner, where she stood calling out.
I caught my breath a minute. And then we began our march towards the cathedral. Soldiers on a sidewalk. We were on a holy mission.
You guys… I was petrified.
We trampled up the church stairs. And there I stood before the big wooden doors, guards to a place I had worked so hard to stay away from.
She looked at me. I looked at the doors.
Then she did it. She grabbed my hand.
My chest collapsed as if I no longer needed to be the soldier. Her hand told me I could be the child. I didn’t have to have it together. I could let my walls down. I took a really deep breath as the doors creaked and cracked open, the light inside bursting and busting outwardly towards us.
And then just like that. I took my first step.
An emergence of sorts.
A whole new birth.
Hand in hand, Amanda ushered me back into the church.
And for a moment, I belonged. I fit. I was home.
Until I looked down and realized that I had literally gone from hiking trails to church pew and had the tightest of tight-ass stripper-like black pants on, a ginormous fluffy winter hat and big Hollywoodesque sunglasses.
I didn’t fit.
Not so much.
Almost all the hair there was white. And people wore fancy coats and dresses. Y’all there were ties and tights and everything. And there I was, a nomad off the beaten path.
It didn’t really matter. That I was the misfit.
Because somehow church just FIT.
The choir began. Up behind us in the balcony. Like little angels. And I just buried my head into the end cap of the pew, ever present and gazing into an unidentifiable space. I was just there. Feeling church. Tears would trickle down and I’d give them an occasional wipe. I was the soldier who had come home. And it was there I was finding rest.
There was a moment where Amanda put her arm around me and my head just fell to her shoulder. And there we sat. Survivors of the war. Amanda knows all my deepest and darkest pain of this year. She’s sat with me in the moments I was breathing one breath to the next. She’s checked in on me each morning and each night. She’s driven to my house when I’m falling apart. And then she'll leave my house and follow-up each time with a text to tell me she loves me. So it made perfect sense that it was Amanda who held my hand and so graciously escorted me back into family. It makes perfect sense that we would sit together, the battle done. And the tears of pain and grief replaced with tears of hallelujah and victory.
I know I said just yesterday that I don’t want the manger. That I want Baby Jesus. But church felt like a manger today. Like a cradle. And I was the baby. So vulnerable, so exposed. A little infant that just wanted to be held and told it was all going to be okay. I wanted to be born back into family.
This advent, I want to be back home.
And I think I'm getting really close...