Our two rather large dogs were terrifying to our little house guest. No amount of reassurance would convince him that he was safe. As they drew near, he screamed. They are so protective of my Plum that the screaming told hem they must comfort this small boy, so they tried to go closer. More screaming. So our beasts were stuck outside, confused and barking. A dance began, moving the dogs either in or out, depending on where our new friends were. My Chef entertained while I sat with the dogs, our home divided. I prayed that I could find some solution, I wondered about the wisdom of opening our home to strangers. Beautiful in theory, complicated in the execution. We seemed to be offering a bit more misery than hospitality. I searched for a solution, wondering if a different home would be a better fit. Fearing permanent traumatization, I knew something had to change.
Chef informed me that he had invited our housemates to church, I was appalled. This act of evangelism felt disrespectful to their pathway to God, I worried they would feel pressured as our guests to go. Given that the beast dance was wearing me down, I had little energy or even time to chastise my husband. I hoped they would assert themselves and politely decline, I worried how I would attend and leave them with the beasts. I worried, got more and more tired. Finally the dogs and I escaped to my bedroom, fatigued ruling wisdom. I gave up. I forget that until I get so tired of trying to steer the ship, I don’t let God take over.
Before the sun even rose on our sabbath morning I asked Chef for the day’s plan. He confirmed our guests were joining for church, I was taking everyone to meet at the late service as he leaves early to teach Sunday school. While I slept, he and God had been busy with details I now had to implement. Escaping to my porch sanctuary with beasts, I drank coffee and talked with God. I drank more coffee, tried to listen. God whispered. Realizing I had the perfect interpreter, someone who could communicate to a little boy that these dogs were harmless. I called in my Plum, this almost 6 year old bundle of compassion who wrestles the beasts and spreads joy. While it was mama’s weekend, she graciously allowed us to pick him up to join for church and play time after. Mama understood non-beasts loving people. What ensued was such beauty that only God could have been messing around with this.
We walked into church, my Plum, little Jesus, Mary and Joseph and I. I’m not sure anyone even greeted me. The children were too adorable, the adults immediately welcomed, shepherded to the coffee bar. My worrying couldn’t find any place to land, pushed aside by joy. “Yes, I am among friends, friends who will carry this yoke with me.” For a time I could just rest in the house of God. How often I forget that I don’t have to do this, any of this, alone. Coffee, tea, water bottles in hand, we entered the sanctuary, boys racing around as little boys do. I will only attend a church that allows little boys to race around.
I assumed we would sit in the back, inconspicuous, as much as any one could be dressed in such beautiful scarves as Mary. Chef told them we sit in the front row and guided everyone up there. His boldness is ridiculous sometimes. The children and I sat on the floor, dumping out the baggie of cars I had brought. Plum searched my purse for the snacks he knows Gran always has. Packages of cookies were opened, divided. One for him, one for Jesus, over and over, as they sat on the prayer kneeler in front of the entire congregation. Communion in the purest sense. Music began, the boys danced. Jesus danced just as my Plum used to so freely do until he got a bit shy and aware that he was dancing alone. We go to a Methodist church after all. When the children were dismissed for Sunday School Jesus went also with some coaxing but soon returned. Back to the floor I went, rolling matchbox cars to and fro, until it was time for communion when I retrieved my Plum. He loves communion. He loves the bread the juice the lining up with everyone to participate in something he knows is special. Jesus was ready to partake as well. More worrying, how to stop a child from having “snack” that everyone else gets? Anxiety spiking, searching for a quick solution, the voice of my pastor broke through.
Pastor Chris reminded the congregation that everyone is invited to the table. He spoke God to the people. The people heard. Joseph rose to join the line, I could barely breathe. Mary sat still in her chair, the boys rushed ahead. As the communion steward tore a piece of bread and handed it to little Jesus, she told him it was love broken for him. Is there anything more pure, more magnificent? Finally, Mary rose, unsure, haltingly, to join the line. I walked with her although I had already received this sacrament. Arm in arm, we walked to the table of grace.
After church Plum played with the beasts and spoke confidence into little Jesus. By the end of the day we had harmony in our home, no more separation dance. Our guests cooked a meal for us, stepping around beasts in the kitchen. We communed again. I may never write these words again, pay attention. I was wrong, my Chef was right. He sent out an invitation because he was listening to God’s call. I pray that I can be so fearless when given the chance. I pray that I can trust that when God brings us someone to love, he doesn’t leave us to work it out on our own. I pray that I remember communion is little boys dancing to worship music, Muslims taking bread and juice with a group of Christians because we have shown the real face of our One Father. I want to always remember when Pastor Chris said, “Let’s pray,” Jesus stopped playing cars and ran to me, enveloped me in a hug and didn’t let go as we rocked on the floor of the sanctuary. Hearts beating together, wrapped in the arms of Jesus, is there anything more glorious than that?
My soul is overwhelmed, brimming with the love and light God has shown me. This lesson of trusting God is something I relearn everyday, easier with the example of children. Bread and juice and cookies become sacred. If I just keep showing up, our One Father will supply the miracles. The table is set before me, open for all who seek to lead a life of peace and love. I come to it broken, like the bread. I pour out my pain, just as the blood of Jesus was poured for us all. Shared, we become whole.
- If I am bold enough to issue invitations,
- if I am silent long enough to listen to the whispers of God,
- if I am transparent enough to rely on my faith community,
- if I am honest enough to acknowledge that quite often my Chef is right,
I will find communion. I don’t ever have to wait for Sunday. Grace and light will meet me there. Thanks be to God.