Eternal Love and Waterproof Mascara
We haven't been to church in some time, but we are trying to get there more often. Although I consider myself spiritual, I am definitely not a typically "churchy" person and often struggle with the concept of organized religion for a variety of reasons, none of which I will go into here, but I am fairly comfortable attending the church I grew up in when I go. I feel it is extremely important Erik feels loved and accepted, and Brian and I both agree church will be important as he grows. Who knows? Maybe I'll learn something along the way.
We dropped Erik off in the nursery and received an electronic pager that would summon us back to the nursery if necessary. We were ushered to an empty space in a pew, and the pastor instructed the congregation to learn the names of those around us. This is normally a nightmare for me, but my new self-confidence has made things much easier. I exchanged pleasantries with the woman next to me and listened as the service began, noting the satiny banner behind the altar was the same one I had picked as the backdrop the day we were married over six years ago. It features a brilliant, electric blue cross. My favorite color. The pastor began to walk the width of the stage and get himself into the spirit of preaching. I thought, dangit, this new guy gets me every time, but surely this time would be different. There would be no talk or videos of the disabled, hymns with seemingly hidden personal meanings, or messages that seemed to be meant for me and me alone. Surely God is too busy to send me these messages each time I attend church these days. I have sat through many sermons in that same sanctuary, largely unaffected but appropriately prayerful, and walked out completely dry-eyed with a cookie in my hand. Hundreds of times. Today would be no different.
We attend the more contemporary service--not because we prefer it, necessarily, but because it is early. They tend to play more modern Christian music, a lot of which I don't necessarily care for but I am warming up to. As I attempted not to be distracted by the one very passionate, animated woman in the front row dancing and gyrating unlike any other Presbyterian I know, I realized there was an old hymn playing. One of my grandfather's favorites. "How Great Thou Art." Okay, I thought, that's a little strange during this service. I enjoyed the warm fuzzy and sang very quietly so as not to alarm the lady standing next to me with my desperate search for the correct octave.
And then the sermon began. The pastor began talking of the story "Eternal Love" by Karen Bender. He explained the story as being about parents of a developmentally disabled daughter in her 30s who finds love with a developmentally disabled man. It wasn't so much about the love between the two but more about the mother and her relationship with her child. You see, it was her job for years to care for her child, and she set her marriage and even her personal needs aside for years. Although her husband was woefully neglected, he patiently waited for her to come back to him. She felt off balance because she would no longer feel like she had control of what happened to her daughter. She couldn't imagine what she would do if she had to let go.
You have got to be freaking kidding me.
It wasn't long before I realized I was going to cry. I can cry quietly until my nose decides to emit rivers of snot, after which it sounds as if I am greedily consuming a 44-ounce cherry Slurpee. When I saw the woman on the other side of Brian crying even harder than I was, it only made matters worse. By the time the pastor reached the part of the story about the new bride running to her parents' hotel room for her mother's reassurance on the wedding night, I was a complete mess. The mother reassured her daughter that she had their unconditional love and approval and then watched her go happily back to the groom. She then allowed her own husband to hold her and comfort her for the first time in years.
This is the point when the lovely woman next to me in the peach blouse plucked a Kleenex from the pocket pack in her purse and offered it to me. I accepted it gratefully, and as I blew my nose, I silently granted her permission to refrain from holding my hand during the closing song.
I survived the service, and we headed down the hall to pick up Erik. We were told he had been taken to a private prayer room (I didn't even know we had those) because the environment was too loud and he became upset. I must have looked very alarmed, as I was instantly offered assurances he was fine. I plucked him from the arms of the girl who was holding him, and we made our way out into the sunshine, feeling a little bit more connected with each other and the world.