I noticed a chip on my cherry red pedicure. Actually, I noticed chips (plural) on my two (or was it three?) week old pedicure. Shit, I should have checked this before we left.
Is that hair on my legs? Ohhh, maaannn, I forgot to shave my legs. Thank goodness for having light-colored body hair, I guess.
We were headed to our third “date” to HFASS (House For All Sinners and Saints) which featured Nadia Bolz-Weber as pastor. As an aside, Joan of Arc has always, and I mean ALWAYS, been my favorite female warrior (so much so I am trying to find a local tattoo artist that will ink her portrait on my arm), but Nadia isn’t that far down on my “Bad Ass Women” list from Jeanne d’Arc ( I love saying it in French).
I know, I know…I should be proceeding with caution as we have our third date with this lovely worshiping place given that just a year ago, I was in the middle of suffering spiritual abuse by a few asshats that misused God to perpetuate their own asshatery and narcissism.
And I think I am.
I’m observing a lot more.
I’m holding back.
I’m not making the first move.
I’m taking this slow.
As we pull up to HFASS, the first date butterflies return, but once we saunter past the corridor in St. Thomas Episcopal Church’s Parish Hall, those feelings are replaced with tranquility, marvel, and divine comfort.
It’s like watching a baby being born for the first time. Again. And again.
It’s a full house as we find six seats in the back row and before I know it we, the parishioners, are chanting, singing, and embracing this place of inclusiveness and humanity. My past experiences with religious institutions have always felt like a forced farce — inauthentic, complacent, and leaving a foul taste in my mouth like sour milk. If I’m being utterly frank, after my last church experience (and as I’ve written about here) I never imagined I’d attend a place of worship again, let alone one that was so lively, lovely, and loving.
This place was just like a haven I had when I was a child living on a farm in rural Indiana. I would seek refuge in something I called “the hay barn” because, well, it was filled with hay. I would sit criss-cross atop a haystack and just speak to the birds, cats, dogs, and the sky, ground, and plant life around me. I felt justified. Validated.
HFASS is that childhood safe haven reincarnated.
It’s so unexpected, yet soulful; so surprising, yet reminiscent; so empowering, yet humbling.
It’s just beautiful (let’s do a word count on how many times I’ve used ‘beautiful’ when talking about HFASS).
Before I can blink my eyes – or that is how it feels – Nadia begins her sermon and I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was like I was hearing angels, watching Jesus walk on water, and feeling the Divine Touch upon my skin — kissing it so sweetly with tender lips like a mother caring for her hurt child.
Was it life altering? Probably not.
However, it was moment altering; it was pain altering as I continue to wrestle with my evolved faith; her sermon was much-needed for someone who has felt like a kicked down dog most of her life.
“So Jesus decides to play with them a little more, and he’s like, yeah, she’s such a loser who doesn’t get it. After all, I only give mercy and healing to winners who already totally get it.
And the Canaanite woman came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
(And then – and here’s why this Canaanite woman is basically my hero – because then she sasses him.)
She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”
And that is that Grace and mercy and healing has always been for people who are basically dogs.
And again, this is what it looks like to justify ourselves. This is what it looks like to use our self-named virtues to try and justify ourselves before God and others. This is what it looks like to say that our human hearts are a source of only love and goodness and rainbows.
But Jesus calls BS on that. He calls it on the Pharisees and he calls it on the disciples and he calls it on us. He names the human heart for what it is and in Luke 18, he asks: who is justified before God, the righteous one who prays thank you that I am not like that sinner, or the sinner who prays, Lord Jesus Christ son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. – Nadia Bolz-Weber (Entire sermon can be found HERE)
It was a sermon that touched me because I was that person that justified everything horrible that I did in my fundie days before God, especially using that asinine Christanese saying, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Like seriously, I HATE IT. Even though I don’t believe (anymore) in much of the “standard” theology that is preached by mainline Christians, the crux of it all is that I’m a human being.
I make mistakes. I fuck up. But I also have so much worth to give to others and who, in turn, grant me the opportunity to benefit from their gifts — like being able to attend Nadia’s church.
One of my favorite parts of HFASS is something called “Open Space” which is a time for prayer, reflection, and meditation. I go off to an adjacent sanctuary that is accented with vintage (really old) pews and gorgeous stained-glass imagery. Every time I have sat in that place, I have felt nothing, BUT Divine Serenity as I whisper a prayer to my Rabbi Jesus to further allow me to understand myself and transform this world (FYI, this was the first time I said a prayer in a church setting in over a year). I feel HIM and HER in a way that’s intimate and spiritually personal.
It’s true, my walls are slowly coming down brick-by-brick on this third date. I’m “flirting” with this whole peaceful concept of worship again and I feel comfortable enough to get out of my introverted shell to start conversation with other parishioners.
The first round of interviews with our first and second dates were a HUGE success, that I arranged this aforementioned third date and was open to searching for a new potential relationship despite all the baggage I carry from my “ex’s”.
Here I am sitting in a place that is the apple of my eye. This place is what I’m attracted to and how we’re here is a dating success in itself. And I’m finally taking a chance again.
I’ll yell this from a 14’er in Colorado if I must, “I’M TAKING A CHANCE AGAIN!!”
I’m taking a chance on love…on spiritual love…on spiritual love in a place of worship again and it’s amazing to feel a way – a new way – in which I though I’d never utilize this emotion again.
But here I am.
I’m in love.
But I’m taking it slow…no long-term commitments.
Nothing too heavy.
Just enjoying these moments and experiences we have together.
These experiences that’s not just mine, but my family’s too, at HFASS.
I’m taking this week-by-week, moment-by-moment, experience-by-experience, date-by-date, but I do know – RIGHT NOW – there will be a fourth date.
This spiritual love is peaceful, compassionate, inclusive, graceful, and is like a flexible, prima ballerina who is twisting, dancing, and living her art.
I’m so eager for our fourth date.