Anxious. Twitchy. Out of my element in more ways than one. But I’m here. I made it. When I finally got out of bed this morning, I raised my hands in triumph and did a victory dance into the bathroom.
Church. I am going to church today. I’ve felt a similar anxiety before job interviews and court appearances. It seemed extremely important to spend more time than usual on personal hygiene, even trimmed the nose hairs.
On the way, I promised myself I wouldn’t cry while I was there. I always sob like a baby during worship; it’s a mess to clean up-snot and salt water everywhere. I can’t help it. God is beautiful, I get emotional.
Heading north on I-5, I didn’t feel like I was on my way to see the Prince of Peace, the God that is Love, my Redeemer. No, instead I felt like I was preparing for a confrontation, an appointment with the Righteous Judge, the God that is Truth, the Almighty; He knows me, knows my sin and rebellion. I have no excuses, no ignorance to blame for it, and I don’t want to hide anymore.
Here, at church, alone but still together with my God family and our Father. My lungs feel shallow. My muscles are tight. Stomach feels like a pit. I feel like the ant beneath the magnifying glass. I stood there by myself, near the front so I could see. I still couldn’t see, but I was as close to the front as I dared. I really need to visit the eye doctor soon.
I’m here though. I made it. Let’s see what happens. The absence of hype at this church is eerily refreshing. It feels less like church and more like a bunch of people gathered because they want to be together with Jesus.
The worship songs are unfamiliar and not loud enough to bury my own wretched voice. During the second worship song I felt a familiar lump in my throat. I sat down and started tapping this into my iTouch. I couldn’t genuinely sing worship songs at this point anyway, too much unresolved mess.
I feel like a barefoot field worker at a fancy plantation banquet, draped in rags and feeling self-conscious in the presence of so much fine linen. It’s all in my head. I barely hear Pastor Rick McKinley’s sermon (about the trinity and our inclusion into Father God’s love for His Son) over my own gurgling thoughts, thoughts of conviction.
I am paper thin. My flesh is a heavy costume, beneath I feel like water evaporating into
The sermon is over. It’s Communion time. The worship song is about Gods love and grace for us. I feel that lump in my throat, again. I stuff my hands in my pockets and try to tune it out. Then the song says something about being a child of God “wrecked by the fall.”
It felt like a steam valve opened up. I’m falling apart. Trembling, I went forward and quickly took the sacraments, then retreated in search of a quiet place. I sat in the back with my face buried in my hands and sobbed. The wine soaked bread turning to a soggy mush in my mouth.
I wasn’t really praying or looking for any sort of experience. It just hit me. Weird huh? I think I cry because it’s God, and He is big and beautiful and overwhelming. I mean, how do people not cry?
Seems like it’s always the same, somewhere behind closed eyes in a quiet place, a Beloved Son Savior is holding my battered broken self in His loving arms, lifting me up to His Father.
Unconditional love, grace and mercy; inclusion and acceptance crash against me like waves. My Judge is my Redeemer. That God is Love. He is Truth. That’s all. I don’t need to be excited or inspired; I just need to accept God and the fact that He accepts me. He loves me.
I’ve been ‘born again’ now for over ten years, and I remember when I used to be able to tell Jesus that I loved Him. And I did so, often, and meant it, too. These days those words don’t come so easy. Not because I don’t believe or accept Him; but in my mind, for me to tell Jesus ‘I love Him’ means that I would forsake all for Him. It means that I would pick up my cross and follow Him anywhere, and give anything to be near to Him. I honestly can’t say that now, and I wish I had a good excuse.
Do you love Him?
I want to. I want a lot of things. When I think of how much He loves me, I really want to more than anything. I think it’s probably the hardest thing in the world to really do, to just love Jesus. Thank God, His love is the easiest thing in the world to accept and receive.
So I went. Now what?
Driving south on I-5, it’s a sunny Sunday afternoon. I feel a little lighter than before. I resolve not to make any more promises I can’t keep. A while back I promised myself I’d stop doing that. I just hang my left arm out the open car window and enjoy the buzz of getting outside of my comfort zone. I laugh at myself for still crying like a baby in church even after ten years. I cross my fingers and promise that I will go to church more than a few times in the next ten years.
Gabriel McGraw Montgomery currently resides in Salem, Oregon where he enjoys feeling at home with his friends and family while simultaneously day-dreaming about distant lands. Gabe is interested in all sorts of creative expression and is almost convinced that his mom is right, and it’s not too late to go back to school. Gabe likes people and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.