Sunday, August 5, 2007

Why Church? Part One: "For Time to Think"

[This dramatic new mini-series is introduced here.]

I know I'm not the only one out there who is leading a life that could only be described as hectic. (And some of you are ahead of me on the ole hectic-o-meter!) So imagine for a moment being given the opportunity to sit. With your partner. Without your children. And just listen. And think. For. An. Hour. About really interesting topics. Like forgiveness in your relationships, honesty in your marriage, the importance of having real dreams and working towards them, social justice. And hearing good music, and getting a chance to sing (something I love and haven't done much of in years), and even enjoying a quiet moment here and there. Ah, the quiet.

There is something about this combination of peace and quiet, a thoughtful sermon, and nice music that really gets me. Most weeks, the themes lead us to consider how we choose to spend our lives - looking at the bigger picture of the world and our impact on it - and this always fills me with emotion about my work. I feel so very lucky to have work that I love and that I can feel proud of; work that is having a positive impact on children and their families.

In the day to day grind, it's easy to get lost in the drudgery of paperwork and scheduling, or to worry about whether work is encroaching too far into my time with my family. But when I sit in church, I am given the time to be filled with elation for the kids who are suddenly making big changes; sadness for the boy we said good-bye to last week because he is moving; concern for another family going through a transition. I am very emotionally tied to these children and their families, and when I have this chance to sit and catch my breath, my feelings are overwhelming. For the most part, it's joy I'm feeling as I think about how amazing these kids are and how hard everyone is working to help them become their best selves.

Add to this some meaningful music, and I end up in tears nearly every week. I was already knee-deep in emotion after the sermon today and then the congregation sang John Lennon's "Imagine", and that was it for me. I couldn't even sing it.

Then we sang the beautiful "Siyahamba", a South African gospel song. ( Click here for a sound clip. Not of us, mind, you.) I love this song, having become familiar with it on the Dan Zanes Night Time album back when Baxter was about 2 years old (if you don't have this, run to pick one up!). Baxter's good friend Lucy (the one hugging him in the princess gown photo) claimed "Siyahamba" as her favorite song back in those days (do you remember this, Stacy??), and I remember watching her at the Dan Zanes show that year when they sang it, and tearing up at the time over her rapt 2-year old expression upon hearing this song performed live. Needless to say, I hate when this gorgeous song is part of our service at church because I can only cry at that memory, which then triggers the really big tears over missing Lucy and her family, these wonderful friends who are back in California.

Do you see where I'm going with this? By the end of church, I was a serious crying mess. And today wasn't the first time.

While this is somewhat embarrassing, I clearly need an outlet for all these feelings: for the children who are moving forward, for those who are struggling, for my own kids, for thoughts of our faraway loved ones. And I'm sure there were tears of stress in there somewhere, too.

And I guess what I'd venture to ask is, don't many of us need that? Couldn't we really, truly use a time that is set aside to sit quietly, listen to something inspiring and thoughtful, and be allowed to actually feel the full range of emotions that we experience in a sometimes-shallow way as we're running hither and yon each week? I mean, I love to hang out in my jammies with the kids as much as the next mom, but this is something I really need in my life.

This was the very first thing that I came to appreciate about going to church on Sundays.


squab said...

This post REALLY speaks to me, since I've been missing some form of organized worship/meditation for these exact same reasons. But here's a question: what if your husband wouldn't go with you? Would it still be as rewarding if it was a solo (or solo with kids) pursuit? I really can't see my partner going along with me, even assuming I could find a similarly satisfying church. Even if I *could* drag him along, I think it would be only reluctantly and with much grumping.

Jordan said...

Well, that's a good question.

While I knew Matt would go with me the first time, I wasn't at all sure he'd agree to go again - you know, being a non-church-going atheist who likes to sleep in and all. But he too found that this particular church filled a void for him and was totally unoffensive in terms of religion. And we both became members. So, it's hard to predict what your husband will do.

But, if it were me and Matt didn't go, I'd still go, just because it's something I wanted or needed.

And, by the way, if this kind of church appeals to you, let me know and I'll give you the name of one in Minneapolis that our friends used to attend before they moved here!

Cara said...

Jordan - you put into words exactly what I feel each time we go there. The first time I went last fall, I sobbed throughout the service, and I have not stopped since! :-) It really is a time to just sit and reflect and hold Michael's hand. And now we know that if we are feeling embarrassed about our tear-streaked faces, we can just point to the other one and say, "Well, look at HER!" :-)

squab said...

Yeah, do tell! I used to go to a Unitarian/Universalist church when I lived in Santa Barbara, but I've been lazy about looking into that option here.

Shan said...

I just have to say how cool and strange (in a cool sort of way) it is that two old friends of mine from two different parts/times in my life (Jordan from waaaaay back in college; lovable Squabby since 2000 or so)-- who have never met but presumably perhaps know that they have mutual friends in Christopher and me--are sitting here conversing together, all courtesy of the Internet? How bizarre. The Internet is a small world!

Oh, and I'm torn on the church issue too, as Squab knows. We're not "believers" per se (well, C. is an outright atheist, I'm more agnostic: I say, Who knows?, whereas he says, Not possible), and I'm incredibly lazy on weekend mornings--it's way too hard to get out of the house in the early morning looking respectable with a 3 year old and a 1 year old. So, so far we don't feel moved to start going anywhere. But, I can surely see the nice points, esp. since I grew up in the church so it was a huge part of my life for many years.

Becky said...

I know that once we get there Church will be a great thing for our family. Reflection is something that's hard to do when you are on the go like we are all the time. Getting there will be a trick though (we've been meaning to go, oh, about every weekend since you mentioned your church). It will happen. Someday. My dad, the Lutheran minister, may freak, but he did marry us in a Unitarian church, although he swore us to secrecy abou that. Don't tell the Internets.... Uhmm, doh.

Lorell Marin said...

Well I am going to take the leap and join the blogging world. Thanks for introducing it me Jordan.I really enjoy reading all your posts. I am a strong believer in going to church- although I agree it is difficult to get up early on Sunday. It is always so rewarding and really puts my life into perspective. I do not think it matters what type of church/place of worship you attend. It is a quiet time of reflection. As you know I work with most of the same children and I find myself thinking about them on a different level when I am there along with missing family- so belive me I find myself crying- sometimes excusing myself to the bathroom because for some reason I felt embarrassed. I always walk back into open arms and realize how many others feel the same way. I usually have someone to go with but I will go on my own and find it to be even more private and sometimes rewarding. I go for myself so I do mind going by myself. Thank you for being so honest.