If God Swore

Until then, I’d never experienced our church from the pulpit view. I’d done a reading once, down a tier at the presenters’ lectern. I once made a nervous mission announcement from there, as well.

I don’t know how many seconds passed before I began to speak.

There may have been no delay, at all.

Maybe my mind was moving faster than time. Or, maybe time truly suspended giving me a moment to catch up.

Being caught in that living still frame isn’t something I’ve ever been able to escape. Nor the feeling of being yanked back to the conscious present based solely on the physiological need to breathe.

This is what I saw: our church – our house of worship – filled. Surpassing Christmas, surpassing Easter. Standing room only, was truly that.

People lined the outer walls, the back walls, stood in the lobby, 2-3 deep in respectful rows, sat shoulder to shoulder. Hands clasped, eyes turned, a hush-filled quiet uncomfortably questioning what was about to happen.

So unexpected. So. Many. People.

I don’t know what I thought I’d see from up there, but that wasn’t it.

Someday, I want to paint the way I felt: far-away shadow figures, vague- shaped contours; impressionistic forms. It’s not that they don’t deserve to be individualized. It’s rather that they were one cohesive group, for the first time, for the last time, forever.

I’ve run the scene so many times; replayed when I need to feel stronger. I remember I did that and remind myself if I got through then, I can get through now.

I have an issue listening for God or to Him. I’ve gone way too long in some situations and found myself happily or unhappily God-smacked.

Like upside the head, like, “Hey, dammit (if God swore), pay attention!”

Like a physical push, showing me out of a situation that has long since run it’s course.

It’s easy to glance back and see the dozens of times the message almost got through to me. Last week, one actually did.

GOD: Dwelling. Places.

ME: (stubbornly) How. Many. Heavens?

Suddenly, I saw it so clearly. I knew.

In that sea of souls, right there in our Father’s house of worship, there were many dwelling places.

Down here, we call them hearts. Each person there, took him all the way Home in theirs.

Quote for the Week:

ketchup was his friend

So little of the sharing has stayed with me.

Specific stories, short strings of words. Things I heard from behind me, close and far; one at my knee.

“He was my Uncle and I loved him.”

“The closest thing to a brother I will ever have.”

A short story told by a woman Jeff trained as a delivery driver, driving toward Detroit. “One thing has always stayed with me,” she shared. “I was nervous and needed to get over a lane and couldn’t. Jeff was calm and patient. He told me to use my signal. Then, he gave me this advice.”

“Always signal your intentions,” Jeff said. “On the road and in life…’ ”

I’m sure there were more, but lastly, a drily humorous heartfelt summation both true and appreciated by all. “Ketchup was his friend.”

In the few moments’ gap, while volunteer speakers I was still dwelling on “dwelling places” when it happened. So fast I don’t know that anyone else caught it or could have caught it. An ever so slight chin bob, a direct look. Within the same second, I mirrored. That is how it came to be that I would, in fact, be reading my eulogistic … tribute (I guess).

I slid from the pew, stepped up with the help of our minister’s hand. He spoke softly, slightly offering the microphone.  “Do you want to stand here?” he asked, then immediately continued, “… or…”.  

The following “… would you …” was accompanied by the float of an upturned palm. It was the sort of go-ahead gesture offered at a held open door, only it was offering me something more. Significantly, the pulpit. Pastor Dave must have had quite the confidence that I would command myself. So, must have I, only I don’t believe mine came from me.

I’m not at all a public speaker. I say as little as possible whenever possible. So, I wasn’t considerately thinking, showing confidence, displaying emotional control or anything that could be ascribed to … anything.

I didn’t stop to consider. I don’t recall even the barest hesitation. I just continued on to where I would be.  

I liken it to arriving at home, shifting the car into ‘park’ and not recalling if you actually stopped to pay the necessary exit toll. You must have, though, because there you are in the driveway. No flashing lights to be found.

Since then, I’ve self-rationalized. Only because it seemed everyone’s interpretation of the step-up was getting out of hand.

I’ve believed for years that I made a choice based on the perceived comfort of the podium; separating myself from the situation, hiding my girth and assuring I had something to hold onto if I couldn’t remember not to lock my knees.

That belief was shattered, last week.

Quote for the Week: