It's not just the Son of Man, my friend.
Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have
nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." -Luke 9:58
Last week, Mr. M took vacation and I had time on my hands, having made the decision two weeks prior to stop being a bad secretary. On Monday, we took a little trip to the teeny beach at Elk Neck State Park. That part is not a good story, and can be summarized in 4 words-- dead fish, hasty departure.
But the drive down was a thoughtful time for me. We took the winding roads through southern Lancaster County, which is some of the most beautiful countryside I've ever seen. Briefly during college, I dated a guy who lived in that area, and the sheer gorgeousness is part of why I moved to PA (the county's, not his). Lush green hills, with farms and forests, old stone farmhouses, and sweet Norman Rockwell neighborhoods. It's beautiful, but it's not my home. In fact, because most residents have ties here that go back several generations, my newness stands out in sharp relief. There are times I feel a bit like an orphan stuck at someone else's family reunion.
I didn't really notice how untethered I am (or more accurately, what life is like for people who aren't) until after college. We lived in military towns, or abroad near the Embassy, or (the ultimate home for professional gypsies) Washington, DC. Everyone was a new kid in college, so that was wonderful. My whole life, there were different accents, different perspectives... and when no one is the same, there seems to be much more respect and enjoyment of diversity. (It's hard to have "us" and "them" when there are only two of each, and forty various other groups.)
Having been a military brat, growing up all over the world, is a blessing and a curse. I could have just kissed Charlotte when she introduced me to the concept of Third Culture Kids-- holy carp, it's not just me! Likewise, I've learned a lot about myself through Charlotte and Nancy's adult reflections on military families.
But back to this place...
The first thing I sought in this hometown was a congregation. I had worshipped with Baptists and Catholics, Church of Christers and huge evangelical churches, Quakers, Unitarians, and Methodists. I worshipped in regular churches, military chapels, campus all-purpose rooms, and one strange satellite-worship-Starbucks (not my favorite). Christians were just people who loved Jesus, prayed regularly, and were lucky enough to be able to turn their worries over to God.
And again, I was startled by the long ties to the denominational equivalent of generations-old neighborhoods. But it took (I kid you not, perhaps I'm just unusually thick) years to identify this. I would talk about my spiritual needs, things I'd pasted together from different sources, not knowing what a weird amalgam I was, and people would dismiss me. I was ticked off at the time, but now I realize the things I wanted weren't part of their tradition.
There's a lot I've tossed from my evangelical elementary school education, but being familiar with the Bible is something I've been so grateful for. I had no idea that there were Christians, laypeople, who didn't believe in daily quiet time with God-- I expected that it was there for everyone, though surely it took different forms. I had no idea that there are churches that see no need for people to pray privately together over the issues in their lives. OF COURSE I want to sit with you, hear about what matters, and pray together. I want the intimate friendships that brings about.
But I love weekly Eucharist, deep in my soul. I love the mystery of keeping ancient rites, words and habits that tie us to centuries of Christians. I really believe in the communion of the saints, that sometimes the writing of Theresa of Avila makes her just as present and loving to me as my favorite college girlfriend. I love the practices and disciplines that have been handed down-- the daily offices, the rosary.
So where does my untethered soul go? I could sample from lots of churches, but I love knowing people and being known, and that doesn't happen one Sunday a month.
AND, if it wasn't all ridiculous enough... I still don't feel un-called. What kind of crazy person feels called to ministry without a church? I love preaching, really love it. I know that thoughtful liturgy is precious to me, because I'm such a pain in the rear about it (I don't care what your style is, I care deeply that it reflects your theology and isn't sloppy). I am excited and energized by church-stuff. I believe (so much that my toes tingle with it) that there must be a place where our souls are shown deep hospitality.
I have a (fleeting, usually) sense of anticipation that carries me through the nutty times where I don't respect where I've been and I can't see where I'm going. This much joy and curiousity can't be going nowhere. But, for the time being, it has no place to lay its head.