In the past few weeks, my church has been slowly and cautiously resuming in-person worship services.
In an effort to love and protect attendees, and out of deference to authorities, there is a litany of strange, “never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine this” precautions.
Once everything started shutting down, church was the first things that really felt like a gut punch. Sure, school was canceled, Tom was working from we stopped going to the grocery store, and a pandemic was raging outside, but from within the four walls of my home, everything felt normal. Then on Sunday, we gathered around our tv to worship. Watching the livestream, I mourned for the first time. Early on, they hadn’t had time to figure out the technology, so the connection wasn’t great. It highlighted what we already knew. This isn’t how worship should be — impersonal, distant, a frustrating confluence of technology.
During that first live-streamed service, I imagined returning to worship once all of this is over. I knew I would weep with joy when we could gather in-person and hug and celebrate because, we made it! The world failed us but we got through!
Now, here we are. Six feet apart, wearing masks. There is no coffee, no greeters. The two elderly women who sit in the foyer and chat every Sunday are absent.
I wept because it didn’t feel like home.
Sitting in church is never uncomplicated. I always show up with a mess of convictions and righteousness in my heart that needs confessing and sorted out. This even more true now. I’m sad, overwhelmed, tired. I come to church knowing that I will be reassured with the hope of the Gospel.
Now, in June 2020, sitting in the service I feel safe and unsafe, reassured and not reassured, home and not home.
This is such a difficult time.
For the past 15 years I’ve heard my pastor preaching that this world is not safe; it is not our home. And now, here we are, sitting 6 feet apart, wearing face masks, that message is impossible to ignore. This place we live, it is killing us.
Before now, whenever I go to church I’ve been able to dress nice and smile to hide my struggles, disappointments, and besetting sins. But this morning I thought about how ridiculous that looks now. I wore a bright orange eyelet dress, as if that would distract from the face mask I was wearing. I have always done a version of that, but I couldn’t ignore the absurdity this morning. If I dress my kids in cute outfits, perhaps I won’t have to confront my struggles in parenting? If my husband and I look put together, who would guess that we had a huge fight on the way to church? If I wear a bright orange dress, who will even notice the pandemic raging outside?
These days, I feel so much discomfort. The world is uncertain and dangerous. As a spiritual practice, I’m reminding my fearful heart — the world has always been this way. And Jesus has always been caring for us. Now, I cannot pretend the danger isn’t real and present. I am wearing protection on my face.
I look to my face mask, soap and water, a vaccine, and Phase 3 guidelines for hope. And because these are not comfort, I still feel scared. Jesus says LOOK UP. Look up to the one who holds you, who has always held you. And when I worry because I don’t know what will happen and how justice and peace will come to a world that is filled with riots and sickness, Jesus says, “I am.”
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
– Psalm 91:1-2-
P. S. Now, more than ever before we’re so very grateful to our church and its leaders for their quiet ministry to our family — welcoming and worshiping alongside our loud, messy, impossible-to-keep-quiet kids. Let’s all hug when we’re allowed. xo