Thursday, January 4, 2018

Just tell me whether to dip or not.

We are still visiting churches. There are a million reasons. A dozen excuses. But the bottom line is that we still haven't found a place to fit -- and frankly now that we are moving it is harder than ever to make the effort to plug in short term.

So we found ourselves visiting yet another.

I sat in the pew -- all the way at the back of the church because oh man, we get tired of being conspicuous looking for a place to park the wheelchair -- and thought about the beauty of belonging. There is nothing quite as wonderful as being embraced by loved ones as you prepare to worship together. I used to be the last one out of my home church, only leaving after I had hugged everyone around. 

It has been a long long time since I felt that sense of belonging in a sanctuary. It has been a long time since I was the last person to leave.  But oh how I long for that sense of being with loved ones in a common worship.

So when the pastor called us forward for communion, I was ready. What better way to belong than to come to the table and accept the bread as the body of Christ, and the wine, as Jesus' blood.

We went forward pew by pew. I hung back with Benjamin as the rest of our family -- and the rest of the pew -- went forward. Benjamin was having some anxiety as he drove to the front of the church. Though he has no idea what triggers this -- it wasn't the first time a church sanctuary has been a problem. (Just one of the reasons we struggle to find a "home.") I selfishly wanted us to participate in communion but was getting nervous that he would not be able to, so as we went forward to the altar for our turn, I was also my own-brand of anxious. One of the pastors handed me the bread -- a piece for me and a piece for Benjamin. I bowed over it and placed mine in my mouth and his in his. Dear pastor leaned forward and whispered that she would give me another piece so that we could dip it in the wine.

Dip it.

Oh yes.

I tried to smile as I whispered we were accustomed to doing it separately.

She smiled and said she should have explained.

She handed me a second piece. And then she took another piece and dipped it for Benjamin and handed it to me.

As I turned to put it in Benjamin's mouth he shook his head and his eyes met mine with a panicked-look. He couldn't swallow. He couldn't do it again in front of everyone. I quickly placed his wine-soaked piece of break into my own mouth. And as reverently as possible, stood and tried to help him back to our pew in the back of the sanctuary. As I climbed over him to my own seat, I realized MY bread was still clutched in my fist, never having been dipped. I didn't know what to do so I threw it in my mouth.

(In an effort to make light, I assured the kids that I was too full from communion to eat after church!)

And though the pastor was kind and gracious with me, with us, nothing could have left me feeling less like I belonged than not knowing the nuances of how to take communion with this community.

Finding a place, finding a people is not for the faint of heart. Those of us who move around in the course of our life, have to find people, leave people, and find people again. And as we enter this weird season of transition -- of having one foot here and one there and flying back and forth -- I fear belonging might be a bit of a challenge. (In case you missed it...I am talking about our move here.

But this weekend my mother began telling the kids stories of our time in Germany -- she and a itty-bitty one-year-old me moved to Germany to be with my Dad when he was stationed there during the Vietnam War. She told about carrying me on the bus to do hair on the Army base. 

Kids: "Who kept Mom, Grammy?"

My Mother: "Keep her? She went with me and just played with the kids on the base."

My mom and her itty-bitty side-kick!

She told story after story. And always, I was there, fitting in as I must, making friends with strangers some who spoke English, some who spoke German. It was such a God-moment for me as I heard in her stories God's reminder that He has been preparing me for all these moves -- for meeting new people, for finding my place, since I was itty-bitty.

It isn't magic. We have been here two plus years and don't have that church, that community where I am the last one to leave. We don't have a place where people are accustomed to seeing our family and don't gawk -- even the kindest stares feel like gawking. That place where we know whether to dip our communion bread or not...

But we will press through. We will keep looking for our place here -- even temporarily -- and we will be ready to look again once we are all moved. We won't be perfect. There will be some days where the effort outweighs the need for community. We will celebrate in those who have embraced us here and do our best to love them well.

And one day, one day, when we find that safe place to worship in a community that loves us and allows us to love them, we will do our best to make sure others feel that they belong. I'll even show them how to take communion.

And I'll be the last one to leave the sanctuary. The very last one.

Carol - The Blessings Counter