For the past six years I have celebrated Holy Week at a church that relishes spectacle. Complete with a 2 mile prayer walk, operatic interpretations of the creation narrative and 700 people acting out the valley of the dry bones story; these people know something about the revelry of God. While I attended that church, I rarely participated. I often just stood in service and cried the entire time. I wasn’t in the most helpful or healthful place in college. When asked by my best friend if I was alright, I could only ever reply: “I hurt. And how can I not cry in the face of truth?” At that time, it was enough just to stand and painfully glance into the face of truth and love.
Fast forward a few years, post college, post-disastrous relationships, post- spectale-church-of-truth.
I find myself part of a small Anglican church-plant. We meet in all sorts of places. Last night we held Maundy Thursday service in a sweet little 7th Day Adventist church. Completely devoid of spectacle, we brought bowls and bath towels from home for the washing of feet. The congregation was maybe 25 people. What struck me that night, as it does every Sunday in my friend’s apartment, is that God is present in the liturgy, no matter where that liturgy is held. I still cried (though not as much) last night. There was no best friend to hold my hand. My tears were of those harkening back kind, when, even though you are no longer in the place of raw scraping, the muscle and psychosomatic memory is such that you are profoundly aware of who you are and where you have been. When every image of abundant love reminds you of all of your own failed attempts and how sweet, earnest and pathetic they were.
I am both that same girl from six years ago and a wholly new person.
How can I possibly begin to articulate how I now understand why so many of my attempts to love have failed? It’s a long and complicated story. But it always comes back to this: I refuse to let my creating-brother-father-lover God love me. Because I hold up walls to him, I can’t help but hold up walls to others. I don’t barricade myself in the obvious, “I won’t reveal x,y,z” ways. But in the “I can’t sustain a larger perspective outside of this moment because I am scared!” kind of way, and that causes me to do all sorts of damage. I can’t dissect it out into words. I am not sure how the change happened in me. But every holy week for the past six years I have taken a step, a small step closer to accepting that Jesus Christ actually loves me, even though I still hold up walls and I still chafe at the idea of worth and love.
I know truth when I hear it, and I can’t help crying when in the presence of it. But this year I realized I have outgrown simply recognizing the face of love, I must now begin to walk with Him.