“I think if I didn’t have Jesus I’d be a slut. An unmarried one, of course. ” I recently confessed to a friend.
“I could see that about you, you’d be in love with people and I think I’d be in love with things, like drugs and alcohol.”
“It’s true”, I agreed. I’m in love with everybody.
The up and down ritual was instinctive. The words of the creed siphoned from my gums into the air free and dry. Sundays were easy; ritual is human nature. Open the doors and see all the people.
Sixteen year old me sat there, placating my mother by not falling asleep and keeping my heels on, feeling a chill up my spine every time I thought about last night’s camp out.
Where I come from, a camp out is when you tell your mama you’re staying the night at your friend’s house while your friend told her mom the same thing then you’d go out with whichever boy was the flavor of the month at the time. You’d plan to go home first thing in the morning and when your mom asked why you were home so early you’d say your friend had gotten sick or had to get up early for a tennis match out of town. You’d hope she wouldn’t notice the woman you had turned in to overnight. Or the hickeys on your neck.
Church service the next morning was always a strange and pleasurable retrospective dichotomy of should have feelings about guilt over being such a sneaky little thot and reveling in circumspect love and teenage passion. (The be all end of all of life as you know it.) Strange because one ear held a vial with liquid memories to keep forever about what that boy told you and did to you last night. Sentences that fiercely and protectively cradled words like “only” and “forever”. The sacred feeling of fingerprints not yet washed off of your body marked you as belonging to someone.
The vial stopped time and senses in that back pew. It blocked the story and description of love from an all-watching, all-knowing God who offers a greater, different kind of love. He’s got a whole lot of love to give. But, then again, like Robert Plant sang, that boy was gonna give you every inch of his love too.
It is not shameful, not even in a daydream during service. A distraction, of course. But also love, of course.
Today, I sat on a hard back pew facing a navy blue and faded maroon book for the first time in a long time. Having gotten used to a gray, cushioned row, the tangible feeling of cold wood shocked my butt and heart into the past. A place I feel we are all recovering from. A place where we are looking for healing in the bruises that have finally turned yellow and are beginning to blend in with your skin. Where we rolled on the grass and got dirty and felt free when we were young.
It is rare to think about those years ago on Sunday mornings now. (Unless I’m in a coffee shop blogging about them after Sunday lunch.) Eventually you learn how to shake out the water and sound and began listening.
However, it is a human requirement to look at the past through clean glass and wipe off the dirt to see how necessary recovery is. The freedom, the forgiveness, the people, and the appreciation of every single thing. Although I still wince thinking about that one drunken night where I sang “A Case of You” to him and swayed with the grill in the backyard to keep me vertical, it was youth encapsulated. A couple years later when I got my heart broken? Time of my life.
Sunday morning services are good for these sort of reflections. They wear you out like a shopping trip with women or an hour in the gym. When it is over, your cup is full. An ocean into a shot glass.