The temple was a poor simulacrum: a drab, putty colored standard hotel meeting room. Thin walls were decorated with the slicing grooves of the dividing elements that could partition the room from one to two. Round tables draped with the easy to wash silkiness of polyester filled the low-ceilinged space on the ground floor. No windows showed us the high white clouds or the shifts of the breeze through the limbs of myrtles on the other side of the wall. We had our own time, created our own space.
The priests were not dressed in linen raiments, were not enrobed in meters of cloth, did not process like a chain of connected, bobbing heads muttering the Lord’s Prayer. Instead, they came, in ones and twos, each with her own expectations and her own fear. They came in cute skinny jeans and cute yoga pants. They came in cute leather jackets and cute dresses and cute everything. They came with one hand on their hearts and one stretched out open, ready, needy, willing.
Friday night cracked wide our glittery walls; moments of connection took us from tentative strangers to fast friends. We sang, we prayed, we talked and we ate. We took the mundane and made it communal, imbued it with purpose with the intention of our words. Before the night was over, and I removed myself to the relative obscurity of my hotel room, I had grasped fingers, I had touched the arms, I had laughed and been moved by the wisdom and beauty of these women.
When I stood before them to talk about lies and truths and how we can crawl into Him like an astronaut might climb into his suit (thank you, Daniel May), I knew them. I knew their hearts and I called them friends. I was floored, flummoxed, flabbergasted by the raw pain they shared when they told this disparate group the lies they believed for years. My heart ached and I felt a little like the Grinch whose heart grew two sizes; they honored me with their secrets, they honored each other with their trust.
Sunday rolled in quietly and the saints came again, a smaller group, a quiet group. The glittery, perfect walls we shine to the world cracked wider then. Sickness, death, fear, poverty and pain flowed out. But it did not flood the room. The sorrow did not overtake the space. The saints rushed in, with hands open, scooping out the yuck and spilling in their love.
I had not come with my arms out open wide, ready. I had come blank. I did not know what to expect. I did not know this group and I did not know how they would receive me. I had come willing to drop back into the dividing walls, willing to step back, out of, away from, their intimate sharing. But those wily church women; they do it every time. They woo me, and I was drawn into them.
Soli Deo Gloria, hosted and led by the lovely Jen Ferguson easily exceeded my expectations, (since I had none). They taught me to raise my bar and to expect a little more. And a little more. And a little more. These priests in running skirts and yoga pants, these seemingly normal priest mothers and wives called me into them and made me love them.
More on my experience at Soli Deo Gloria on Thursday. Shoulds, Justs and Enoughs.