Image via Wikipedia
We were standing on the perimeter of the sanctuary.
Just passing through, we had stopped in Gulfport, Mississippi to visit our Pastor-friend on our way to Pensacola Beach.
Our friend was in a meeting and we were told to show ourselves around while we waited for him.
We teetered on the edge, feeling shy to enter into this stillness. As we peered in, sunlight sifted through stained glass, flooding that sacred place with a kaleidoscope of color.
I stepped in.
“Why do all Presbyterian churches look the same?”
I heard the humor in his voice, and something else—disdain?
I breathed in and smelled a familiar smell.
It smelled like home.
I wondered—is this the smell of hundreds of hearts and shoulders rubbing up against one another? The smell of many bodies becoming One?
I sat down in the front pew and raised face to glowing cross, sunshine falling through glass.
I didn’t see what he saw.
“I love church.”
I said it with my eyes closed—feeling Him there–loving the light and glass, polished wood and shining brass.
“I don’t,” he said, smiling that smile.
“I love bars and coffee houses.”
And he does.
He is just as uncomfortable in church as he was on the day he was baptized, three years ago.
These walls do not fold him closer to God, as they do me.
They hem him in. Trap him.
But as I look up at him through filtered sunbeams, dust particles illuminated as they suspend in air…I see that he is beginning to understand why.
Why I love church.
Later, as we walk along the seashore…my hand in his…wind lashing hair about faces…I am overcome by the beauty of the moment.
I close my eyes and breathe in a familiar smell. I feel Him there, too—large and powerful like the waves; soft and tender like my husband’s hand.
“This is so…”
I struggle for words.
And then it is my turn to touch on the beginning of understanding.
“This is church.”
He smiles down at me, squeezes my hand.
Wherever we are, He meets us there, Beloved.
Large and powerful, soft and tender.
Such are the ways of our God.