I don’t know if I have missed as much church ever in my life as I have since Cohen was born. Those first few months were such a fog, I actually don’t remember going much, but maybe we did. When I fist came to Ohio, Cohen was still small enough that he mostly slept away his days..so, church? No problem. I just brought my “hooter hider” nursing cover (that’s its actual name, people!), nursed him up, and sat with him asleep on my lap the rest of the service. But Now… well, now Cohen can arch his back, shake his head no, say ‘na na na’, and growl… now, mr. cohen has learned he can be loud and frankly, he prefers it!…and now, he can play with toys…he can’t hang on to them, but he can play with them…which basically means we spend hours of him putting a toy to his mouth, then dropping it, then me picking it up…over and over and OVER. So church is now a very new experience. When I say we ‘miss church’ I don’t mean we aren’t there…cause we are people. We are there…and if you don’t see us, its cause we are in the lobby. Cohen is arching his back, shaking his head, growling and yelling ‘na na na’ at the top his lungs while I try to watch the sermon on the Tv screen admist almost constant toy-retrieving.
That’s how it usually goes.
But yesterday…oh yesterday was magic. We road in with Beth and got there just as worship was starting and Cohen wanted nursed, so I sat down and nursed him…and he went to sleep. I kept thinking, ‘oh he’ll wake up now’ every time the music changed, or people clapped, or a roar of laughter erupted…but he didn’t. He just pursed those little lips, fluttered his eyes, and went right on dreaming.
Its the longest nap he’s had in months.
And I got to actually HEAR the sermon.
You know what, though? I was really distracted…not necessarily in a bad way…but have you ever had a moment where you became really aware of another person…? You know, where you sense a need or a hurt and as you watch, the hurt seems to grow and you can see it on their face and in the way they hold their head..? Have you had that experience before? I used to have that experience frequently, but not so much in the last years. I really think the depression did just what its name implies- it pressed down all of my feelings. I felt numb. And I am only realizing it as my feelings are coming back…and boy, are they coming back.
There was a young couple sitting directly in front of us with an adorable little red haired boy. The girl was there with the baby and her husband (?) came in a song or two into the service and took the little boy from her arms without looking at her. Now, every married person knows that interaction… you’ve had a disagreement and you are sitting stiffly near each other, trying at all costs not to relax your face or look at each other in the eyes. I couldn’t help but watch…their little boy was leaning over the seats and waving at us. I think I went to high school with the guy- he looks really familiar- but when I looked at old yearbooks, I couldn’t find him…so who knows? Maybe I am crazy. I haven’t seen them at church in awhile and I couldn’t believe how skinny the girl has gotten. She was already one of those I-hate-you-cause-you-are-naturally-thin looking kind of girls, but I swear she’s lost 20lbs. She was wearing little kid jeans that were bagging off of her rear end. She looked so tired…and sad. At one point in the service, he seemed to relax a little and smiled during the sermon and sang with the congregation…her face was immovable, like stone. He kept glancing her way with a certain sadness in his eyes and she never looked back, although, as a woman, I am sure she felt his eyes on her.
Their sadness was like a wave that crashed over the row of seats onto us. (I say us, cause Mom and Beth noticed it too) My heart just ached for them. I have so been there. I wanted to reach up over into the next row and put my hands on their shoulders and offer some word of encouragement. I wanted to tell them whatever it is, its not worth it. I wanted to say or do something meaningful..to help…but all I could muster was “your little boy is so sweet”…the both smiled stiffly and invited no other connection. I have been there too.
And this morning, they are still on my mind. I prayed for them. I don’t know their names or what their situation is or even if they are married. But what I do know is how damaging strife can be…how hard it is to work through hurt in relationships…the great contrast of joy with your child in the midst of an argument.
I really wanted to Be the Church to them yesterday, but I felt so hesistant. I know praying for them is being the church in the best of ways…I guess I just find myself yearning for a more connected, community-oriented action. Do you feel that? Do you ever want to put your arms around people and speak into something and then you pull back because poeple just don’t seem to do that? Or because its awkward? Socially? I just wonder if Kingdom living requires more than just going to church anonymously and pretending we don’t see people struggling, marriages struggling, families failing…I wonder if it requires us to not be anonymous ourselves in our own fleshy issues and if, by the same token, it requires us to invite others out of their pretending…?
Now, I am not suggesting that because I don’t know that couple well enough to know what is going on or how to reach out to them, that they are pretending or living disconnected. And I am not suggesting that inserting ourselves (unwantedly) into peoples’ issues is a way to invite them into community… I guess the situation just has me thinking…how DO we invite others into loving community? How do we create an environment of honesty and trust among those of us who are the Church here on the earth?
Please share your thoughts…assuming you are one of the ones who can read this!