I almost started this post by writing, “Jim and I went to church this morning,” but hesitated. Jim and I did go to church this morning, but I’m aware that in our society, different readers will hear these words differently. It’s possible that some may hear me saying, “Jim and I went to church this morning and I’m better than you,” and feel really annoyed. “Who do they think they are? Holier than me? Holier than thou?” Or a reader might think, “Pitiful. Pathetic. Gullible fools. They’d be better off going to brunch.”
When actually, all I mean is that Jim and I, as broken people, went to church this morning, and definitely didn’t feel better than anyone, as both of us suffer from what used to be called “inferiority complexes.” I’m all too aware of my own deficiencies as a churchgoer. Often my mind wanders in church, and I think about what we’ll be having for breakfast. I think about the people sitting in front of us and wonder what they are thinking about. My mind travels to long ago when we always sat behind the same incredibly old man at church every Sunday, and I stared at the creases in his neck. Or sometimes a hymn will bring back a flood of memories, of long ago congregations or of standing next to my mom in the mysterious darkness of church, singing “Be Thou My Vision,” a hymn that reduces me to rubble. So in all this inner cacophany of memories, hungers, and aimless thoughts, a prayer has to struggle to get through to my heart, past the patrols of my rational self, and the miracle is that it does, and I know moments of healing grace.
So Jim and I went to church this morning, and I don’t say this for anyone to admire or to imply judgment of those who don’t go to church. We go there as broken people to be in a place where everyone is broken, and to be in a place where mercy and kindness are thought of as paramount virtues, not as the weaknesses of fools. And I am ready for the week, again.