Certain insights come only in hindsight as one glances back at moments in the past. At the time the insights were unavailable to the mind of the individual. Perhaps they were too young, hadn't mastered a particular concept, or simply were too close to observe the point of a particular event. That happens to me frequently; not the missing of the point, but the gleaning of a particular memory's meaning that I didn't grasp in childhood.
I must have seemed strange to those who observed me--an eight year old child walking three blocks to church by herself, bedecked in a black and white sundress with tie straps around my shoulders, black, shiny sandals on my feet. Yet, there I was, passing the grocery store, the hospital, two-story gingerbread, Victorian houses all the way to a brick church with stained glass windows and a balcony. Usually, I just went to Sunday School. Once I remember going to the service afterwards by myself. I went up to the altar when the children's story/sermon was presented and sat down again when it was over. I don't remember important things like....Did I actually sit still through the whole sermon? Did I sing the hymns at the right places? Did any neighboring adults ask why I was there by myself? These are all things I find curious now as I look back from my perspective as an adult, mother, and church-goer.
Once, my mother told me to go with my older brother. I think I was a little older at that time. Somehow we walked all the way to that little church and, before turning down the road, he convinced me we should walk two more miles to a particular drugstore where he could buy his favorite comic books. "Get thee behind me Satan"....I should have shouted. Instead I followed him, stood around the drugstore for 45 minutes and then had to walk back home with him making me promise not to tell our mother.
I don't really know what my attraction was to going to church. My parents didn't go. Even I didn't attend regularly. I suppose I must have enjoyed it on some level, though I don't think I had any particular understanding of what it all meant. It wouldn't be until I was almost seventeen that I really understood the Gospel and had a conversion experience that radically changed my perspective on life. I was just a kid, unencumbered by self-consciousness, enjoying what I could at the small, brick church with the stained glass windows and scarlet red carpeting.
I'm a lot older now. I don't wear patent leather shoes and strappy sundresses. I also don't get hoodwinked by my older brother anymore. Though, to be fair, he's outgrown most of his hoodwinking tendencies.
Still, when I think about that little girl who didn't really care, or even have the awareness to know, what others thought about her, I see a part of myself that has always been. At times, it is extremely frustrating as I try to grapple with that trait of independence in the larger context of Church and community. How can I understand and appreciate certain communities and still feel so distinct and separate from them?
Maybe I knew something more then....something I can't quite remember but lived and breathed at eight.
Jesus calls us to come to him as little children. Sometimes that is portrayed as having a simple faith and trust in Him--not questioning things we don't understand. I wonder if it's more an act of coming to Him as we are without the burden of who we think we are or should be. We simply squeal at the sight of Him and rush over to pester Him with a million questions about why frogs' tongues are so sticky, and where does the moon hide when we can't see it and hey...did he see how fast we ran across the field, much faster than yesterday...oh ....and did he bring any of that magic bread and fish with him today...and if we jump can he give us that extra push we need to reach the sky so we can grab that cloud up there?...you know the big one that looks like a camel?
Lord, help me to be thankful for who I am in your eyes. Help me to know that you have not come to erase who I am, but to embrace it and use it in a way that glorifies You. Help me to release the expectations I have of myself and others; expectations that serve no purpose but to derail me from the path before me.