Fatted Calves and Prodigal Parties

I went a long, long time sleeping in on Sundays, taking full advantage of that “thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning”. But for the last several months, I’ve been up early, herding my children through breakfast, getting dressed, brushing hairs and teeth; out the door. 

When we moved back to West Michigan it wasn’t on my agenda to do something like “find a church home” or join a church choir. I wasn’t mad at God, I loved God, but I was mad at some of the people who follow Him. Its hard for me to adequately explain how then, I’ve given up my sleeping in routine and instead started showing up at church with my clean children. Hard to explain why, and it makes me feel weird just thinking about it because for so long I resisted any and all attempts to steer me into anything like a church building.

Growing up the way we did, in the tradition we did, and all that happened when that house of cards fell; well, I’m not asking for your commentary or your memories or your defense, I’m just saying it took me a really long time to get my head around some stuff. Like you can visit other churches and not be in danger of “falling away” or going to hell. Like you can have an organ at your church and not be deviating from scripture, like women; all people really, are equal. I think you know me well enough to know that I bow to no man, that I am fierce in my defiance. 

There’s a lot out there right now about the roles of women in the tradition I grew up in, and I’ve read some other stuff too that resonated with me. How the men in charge are so desperately afraid of change, so clear and sure in their devotion to one way, that sometimes they lose site of what is really important. And I know men like that, I’ve known men like that my whole life. Some of them I love, because I know they are doing what they believe to be right, even when it hurts people. Some of them can go fly a kite, because they are hypocritical bastards. Phew, glad I got that off my chest. See, still me, still mad. 

So I’m coming clean with you here, and I hope you still like me. 

I’ve been where you are. I’ve been in that place where anyone even bringing up church made my portcullis fall and my drawbridge come up. I’ve been in that place where you know you don’t need church, because you’re a good person after all. And let me tell you, I believe you when you say that, and I agree with you. We don’t all need it, I guess, and it really isn’t up to me to preach at you or think up sneaky ways to get you to come to church; it just really isn’t my business. So I want you to know, even though they hurt me too, I have a discovered a place that is about love. And that is why I get up early, and argue with Avery about which dress to wear and tell Kaia to stop petting the dog because you’re getting fur all over you! 

I didn’t think I needed it, and if you don’t that is so fine, so fine. But that big red door called to me. 

It said: welcome. 
It said: we don’t judge you. 
It said: I want to be your friend. 
It said: sing, sing higher, sing something harder, sing. 
It said: I love you, and your sister, and your brother and your husband and your kids; I love everyone and I want you to as well. 
And so I went through it.

And through all that hard singing, that initial sometimes awkwardness in being related to the rector, my voice changed and got better, but so did my heart. It feels icky to say that, overly emotional and scary, but I promise you, I am not the kind of person who can start yelling hallelujah and clapping to a praise team. That may be some people, and God bless ’em, but it isn’t me. And that is OK! It is OK! And that is the whole point of this. You, I, we, are ok. 

An explanation, not an invitation, not a scolding, not a bragging session. An explanation. I can say I love my kids and post it all over facebook, but I have a hard time saying anything about faith. I love church, I do. I love the people who welcomed me, who knew nothing about me, the people who thought I was tagging along after my brother, and the people who saw me as I really am, a person apart with different talents and a different personality and sometimes even a different world view. I love people, I find myself smiling like an idiot (trying to be welcoming!) at people of color in Meijer, wanting to hug the man who sits on the street outside the police station here in town and ask if he knows about the soup kitchen, if he needs a ride, cause we’re headed that way now. I find myself hurting for the people who hurt, in my community and in the world, and I find my mind skipping over them all, tapping each one on the head when we pray on Sunday and saying with that tap, I see you. I can’t help you, but I see you, and I’m so sorry that you’re suffering. 

I’m not called, none of us are, it simply isn’t possible, to completely change the world. To make it into some Episcopal utopia where we all love each other and celebrate on Sunday. But I can love. That is what coming through the red door door taught me. It hurts, sometimes it hurts a lot, and even right now typing this, afraid of the reactions, I can love. I can feel my heart cracking open where it had been literally mortared shut against anything God. I am not talking about divine revelations here, I am just talking about opening my eyes and seeing that there is so much more than ME and my past hurts and my past feelings and my past… well, its the past. I am not being some new-agey born again missionary, I am not telling you to find a church and get there quick, not telling you I want you to change. I am just offering an explanation, because I can think of two people who are probably puzzled, and I hope they read this and I hope they see where I am. I am no prodigal child returned and in need of the death of some poor baby cow, or a big party. (Well if you want to have a party that’s fine I guess). I am just me. 

I’m standing here in the road, and my heart is wide open. And I am happy. So happy. 

Oh, and I love you.


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