…… is so much more than walls, ceilings, stone, wood and paint.
Sometimes buildings are living, breathing things.
Or so they seem.
So very much.
I was up quite early this morning and I decided that I would visit my old church today for the Sunday service. Just as I was looking its service times up on the internet, one of my best friends texted me and asked if I’d like to attend with her.
Coincidence? I think not.
So I said yes, and proceeded to get ready.
I haven’t been to this exact church in many, many, many months.
I’ve visited a few churches all across our area, and have enjoyed a couple of them, but nothing has clicked in with that feeling of, dare I say it …… home.
In fact, as I was getting ready I thought, briefly, “I wonder if it will feel like home?”, thinking that it probably would not.
But I wanted to give it one last try.
I don’t say goodbye easily, you see.
This church is so much more to me than a church…… more than a building that holds a church.
It’s a living, breathing organism that holds so much of Jim in it. It also holds emotions that I poured into it, or had them ripped from me there.
And then there are the memories.
The memory of our first visit back when we were a young family of six (4 small children, 2 parents). Then Son #2 came along and was baptized there, as was Son #3. All 6 of our children were confirmed there, deep friendships were created there, faith-growing happened there and bold decisions were made there.
Jim is all over that building. He was the President of our congregation when we purchased the land next to ours so that we could create a larger sanctuary. He was a huge part of our church, both the new and the old.
So I feel him every time I step into that building. Not only him, but the huge, gaping loss of him. His absence is, for me, nowhere greater than in that building.
I feel the huge emptiness of him there.
I feel the pain and anguish and icy darkness I felt there after his death.
I feel the pain of “friends”, who, I’m choosing to believe had no idea what they were doing, said terribly hurtful things, or stood with those who did.
When you add all that pain up it creates one very large barrier for a building.
Not that everything and everyone was all negative, because that’s not true. There was a lot of love in that building, too, but the love couldn’t over compensate for the pain, hurt and darkness.
But every time I return to Texas I argue with myself about visiting “our” church again. This was the first Sunday that part of me won that argument. So I decided to not give it much thought, but to just hurry and get ready and go before I could change my mind.
As I drove to the church, I again wondered, “Will it feel like home?”, thinking the chances were low.
My heart rate sped up pretty quickly and my breathing quickened as I walked from the parking lot to the doors. I tried to keep my eyes averted so that I didn’t appear to look like a “deer in the headlights” to anyone. But soon a long-time friend saw me and came over for a quick hug and said that it was good to see me. I said the same.
I was still trying not to hyperventilate as I looked around, when suddenly my dear, sweet friend Janet walked straight up to me and wrapped me in the strongest, longest hug I’ve had in months and months and months. I didn’t want her to let go. But she eventually did. And when she did, she held my hand warmly and firmly in hers, caught my eyes and said, as sincerely and warmly as possible, “Welcome Home. It’s good to have you.”
It was all I could do to not cry. To not ugly cry.
You see, that’s all I wanted, though I didn’t clearly realize it …… to be made to feel at home. And she blessed me hugely with her touch and her words……with her love.
I thanked her and told her that her words meant very much to me. She said, “I know.”
I totally love that woman and wish that I could travel the world with her. Or at least parts of Texas.
She helped me realize that I could go in and actually sit through the service, which I did, with my friend next to me for support.
I have to admit that I almost hyperventilated for the first 10 minutes or so. Tears were streaming down my cheeks. I felt very overwhelmed with the rush of feelings, memories, pain, good times, etc. that came charging at me all at once. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stay. But I chose to just breathe.
To concentrate on breathing in …… and then out.
As long as I could focus on that job, I could keep the emotions under control.
And it became easier and easier.
So maybe this was a first tiny step to coming back home.
I feel blessed to have two churches where I can feel home now. One here, one in NY.
They have common themes, goals, and plans. And yet they have different ways of carrying out those things. They’ll all get done, each in their own way, which will make them all the more remarkable.
I am blessed.
Even on those days when I feel too overwhelmed to walk inside, I’m blessed when I enter anyway.
I will always be overwhelmed with the sense of Jim in that building. I’m sure there will always be moments, songs, prayers that will bring tears from memories.
And that’s ok.
Sometimes home can be very overwhelming.
And I’ve learned …… that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.