I serve as an usher at church on a rotating schedule, not because my heart is so full of hospitality that I must throw open the doors of the sanctuary and joyously invite folks in. Rather, Plum and Chef both attend Sunday school at the same time so I am left hanging, nothing to do but chit chat and I am not a great “chit-chat” er. Might as well make myself useful, grab some bulletins to hand out, show up on my designated shift and put on a smile. I pull extra shifts given that I am there every week anyway, same time, hovering about. I am convinced that much of my spirituality is just showing up. This week was the first Sunday after the election, I was ambivalent about the showing up part. I was scheduled to be at the door and smile, I felt entirely too needy for such a job. I went anyway, mostly because Plum and Chef were also going and I couldn’t find a way out.
I stood at the door, hands full of bulletins and looked at eyes that teared up, eyes that smiled deeply. I realized that my fears and faith were merged right there, amongst my friends, my fellow believers. I could guess which way many had voted, others I had no clue. I wasn’t asking before I opened the doors. In this space, it didn’t matter. The great scripture in Romans flooded my mind.
14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. (Romans 12)
I came to church to mourn, to throw my fears around amongst others who would see them, know them, understand them. Social media was still showing division, I found others who mourned but many who mocked my pain and told me to get over it. I wanted a safe place to grieve. I realized many of my fellow congregants wanted a safe place to celebrate. We were joining in the sanctuary, seeking unity and healing, regardless of political affiliation. I handed out bulletins and hugs, gentle hand squeezes and warm smiles. I ushered in all who were needing, welcomed all who came.
The music broke open my soul, it often does. Voices lifted begging for clean hands, pure hearts, I could no longer stand, those unified voices sent me to the kneeler to pour out my tears and gift my grief to the One who can turn it into dancing. I listened to the sermon but really heard the message of the Holy Spirit telling me that all is not lost. I know Trump supporters. I know them intimately, they are my friends. These people are not all filled with hate, they don’t advocate rape and want to take away the ability of our mutual friends to love each other. They don’t want our Muslim friends to cower in fear. They just want jobs. They want a different economic picture. These people were sitting next to me, around me in the seats of my church and they were listening to the same music and they were not rejoicing in anyones fears. They were not gloating in winning, they were not telling me to get over it. They hugged me back, they smiled with warm eyes. They are believers in the Ultimate Leader, they are trusting a different path and are asking me to have a little faith in them as well. I got it.
I am not sure what all the pastor said, I am sure it was powerful and healing. What I am sure of is that God was working hard in my church, probably in churches all over the country, inviting us to join and trust and see beyond the labels. After all, that is what we have asked the other side to do, to see the people, not just the category of who they love or what they believe. It is harder to hate when you see individual people, realize they are God’s children. He is inviting us to make room for mourning and rejoicing and then dance together, join together, get back to our ministries from pre- November 8th. I’m not sure my grieving is over, headlines are full of reasons to fear, I am barely peeking out of my cocoon. Yet the memory of my sweet friends hugging me, all of us hugging and welcoming and worshiping the same God, shines light where darkness seeks to reign. Hanging out at church more may just be the beginning of all of our healing. There are always more people to usher in, to feed, to clothe. Maybe there is a master plan after all.