We were up early that day. Not because we had anywhere to be.
We hadn’t had anywhere to be for some time now.
Asher was snuggled on the couch watching Curious George as I puttered around, a load of laundry here, a swipe of mascara there.
I sipped an oversized mug of Earl Grey Vanilla and watched the sun pierce through the clouds, as if in a desperate attempt to break free. I allowed it warm my soul from my tips of my fair-isle knit slippers to the top of my messy bun.
I had time.
Eventually, I pulled on a pair or worn leggings, the only thing that stretches to accommodate my five months along belly these days. We sauntered down the concrete steps to the car. The air was as crisp as one of my Granny Smiths, and I devoured it with the same relish. When worship music filled our vehicle, I sang loudly, pausing to catch Asher’s content grin in the rearview mirror.
We picked up a few Timbits for our journey, passing a handful of churches along the way. Their parking lots were overflowing with shiny vehicles and shinier Christians. I felt the familiar twinge of guilt; but it wasn’t as intense that day. It was impossible to feel guilty with praises enveloping my being like a holy balm. With the sun bouncing off the windshield.
Asher was itching to escape as we pulled into the park. I stepped out of the car and felt the familiar relief that washes over me whenever I’m in the woods. He scrambled over me and was off like a shot. I felt thankful I didn’t have to wrangle him in this place. No pulling him off chairs or wrestling him onto my lap or hissing “Stop that!” so the well- behaved family in front of us wouldn’t turn and stare.
We walked along the dock and waved to the ducks. A well-worn wooden bench invited us to stay a while, and we ate our sugary donuts, their powder coating our unkempt faces. Then we stumbled upon a group of women playing softball and paused to watch. Asher excitedly yelled “Hit the ball!” and I didn’t have to shush him. Those in front of us turned to grin at his enthusiasm.
The ground was covered in spindly little branches we simply had to carry with us. Asher solemnly handed me each precious one before scurrying off to gather another. And as we ambled, I talked to God and prayed and noticed the dirt scuffing up my suede boots and the rustling of the towering boughs above. I worshipped in between bouts of hide-and-go-seek around rough tree trunks. I worshipped without fear of the buzzer at my hip going off, summoning me away from the sanctuary.
Sanctuary was all around me that day.
After an hour and a half I towed my reluctant child back to the car. We were both streaked with dirt and thick chunks of my hair had escaped from its flimsy elastic. Asher wore a halo of pine needles in his golden curls. I left our sacred sticks on the ground, sure another little one would be thrilled to find such a treasure.
We drove home.
And I found myself wondering. . . .
Why did this feel more like worship than anything had in a long time? Why did this feel like fellowship? Like an offering?
Why would a lazy morning feel more like church than church? Why would a clear sky and women laughing over a foul ball and a fistful of branches bring me closer to my Creator than His house? Why did tousled hair and a white sugar moustache feel like the kiss of heaven?
I don’t know.
But these are the questions bouncing around my brain on Sunday mornings. The Sunday mornings that used to find me racing about, lecturing my son, pacing the foyer, gripping the childcare buzzer in my flexed fist.
I didn’t ask questions then. But I am now.
And I’m not sure where to find the answers. Or when I’ll get there. But I’ve stopped tearing myself apart over it.
And embraced that for right now, church looks like a fistful of sticks and a little bag of donut holes.
And that’s perfectly all right.