Opening songs. Far be it from me to show up on time. That’s what opening songs are for right? Let us filter in to account for the five minute lag between any given clock? Anyway, I made it in time for announcements. A friendly reminder of all the things I have not signed up for. Whatever, I’ll have my pen handy once I retire.
Oh good, songs again. I like this one. Now’s my chance to roar like Katy Perry. I’m gonna channel my inner Aretha. Why not? You can’t give a person funny looks for being tone-deaf if they’re singing a hymn. I’m pretty sure that’s in Leviticus somewhere.
Scripture reading. Ugh. Why the monotone? With feeling, folks. This isn’t a funeral.
Sermon time. Come on, Audra. You can do this. Pay attention. I should be able to summarize this thing when I leave here. Ok. Love. It’s about love. Right. Good message. Uh oh, he’s quoting CS Lewis again. I’m more of a Tolkien fan myself. I mean, you either prefer one or the other right? Like Star Trek versus Star Wars or Coke versus Pepsi. Wait, he’s making a point and I’m missing it. I should love my neighbor. Right. I should have the neighbors over for a barbecue. Except our barbecue died. We could have dinner inside, but it seems a shame since the weather finally turned nice. I should get my haircut. Long hair sucks in the summer. I’m getting old anyway, maybe I should get it short like the lady sitting in front of me. There’s some serious helmet hair. I bet I could bounce a quarter off of that stuff. Ugh, dammit. Focus. Did he just say ‘disenfranchised’? Do I know what that word means? At least he’s not talking about circumcision this week. One does not expect to walk into church, sit in a pew, and listen to the pastor talk about penises. Anyway, love. I need to love more. Got it.
Communion. Why did we switch to the Styrofoam discs? Seriously, when I die they’re going to cut me open and find every one of these things I ever consumed stuck in my craw. Wait – everyone is serious right now. This is a sacrament, right? I should be serious. Instead, I’m being irreverent. I know. I should listen. Really listen. It might do me some good.
But here’s the problem. When I really listen I don’t hear the pastor’s message or the song lyrics. I hear an infant crying in pain for hours. I hear a woman in another room sobbing, deep, harrowing sobs for twenty solid minutes. I hear my friend crying in anguish because there was nothing more that could be done. The sounds heard in a children’s cancer ward stay with you. Always.
So I fidget. I make grocery lists. I count how many times blood is mentioned. (Five, usually, unless the sermon’s about circumcision. Then there’s a bit more.) If I have some tissues with me, I even venture to I ask why. What possible reason could there be for giving a child cancer? The answer never comes.
And then I enjoy the company of my church family. The people who supported and stood by us through our medical ordeal. The people who prayed when I was too angry to pray. I eat their baked goods, shake their hands, answer their questions. They seem happy and kind. There’s something here for them, and that gives me hope that there will be something here for me again too someday.
I may not have answers to my questions, but I leave with a sense of community, a song in my heart. I will go back again next week, because it’s a good place, whether I’m paying attention or not.