Monday, March 24, 2014

Broken For Me

He walks our way, between rows of carved pews, the tips of angel wings reaching his temples across a clean-shaven head. He's here in his Sunday best, this stranger, and I hope he didn't think it was necessary. I glance down at my faded jeans, thankful for a morning so rushed and air so cold that they were really my only option.

He talks about unwarranted pardons, of two lines of text that stack word-on-word into proof that he matters, at least to someone. He shares his race car dreams through missing teeth and stands eye-level with his potential, "I got a real good job".

I fidget through church, fighting the urge to turn his way. I don't understand a single thing about him. I'm curious. Nosy. It seems he might hold some secrets to life in a way other people don't. I want to peel back anything that stands in the way of the truth that holds me in its sway. I want to take a good, hard look.

But I face front, like a good church girl would do. I listen to stories of love undeserved, of the impossibility of losing the key to home. It's never too late. You can always come back.

It's the best possible message for the man across the way. I give God an "A" for planning it out like this, for knowing what this man needed to hear and lining up the stars and galaxies and all the impossibilities of poverty and shame in order for him to be sitting there in slacks, on the other side of the church.

We're released by rows and my knees meet velvet. This is his body broken, his blood spilled, for you, Shannan. And in Christ's brokenness, I'm whole. In what was spilled, I'm full. We do this every month, and I'm starting to understand the logic behind weekly communion, though of course it isn't logic at all. It's a pulling. A compulsion. It's necessary.  I can never be reminded enough of the road that led me right here, right now.

I taste the bread, emptied of words again, finding I have almost nothing to say except thank you. This bite sticks on its way down. It's never easy anymore, and I wonder why. The old girl inside me, the one fighting to believe any good thing should be simple, worries I'm not doing something right. It never used to be a problem. It used to slide right down without costing me a thing. Maybe I should be more focused, more reflective. Maybe I don't really understand grace and redemption. Maybe I'm distracted. Maybe I take all this for granted.

Or maybe I've never been more aware of the mess I am. Maybe I can't outrun my humanity and I'm done trying. Maybe God's gift is a clearer understanding of my need for him, so well-lit and painfully saturated that it simply cannot be missed. 

I need this practice, this bending low to confess my simple-minded heart. I need the routine wonder of offering my infant gratitude to the one who defragments my humanity into what it really is, a pulsing brokenness, a needle skipping in the groove of imperfection and frailty.

I loop back around to my pew, my mouth matching the words on the screen while my heart harmonizes every stanza that surrounds me, keeping time to winter's light filtering stained glass, absorbing the reverie where tradition and history meet my blue-jeaned reality.

In a tiny church, half-full, life makes more sense after wedging a soggy hunk of bread into my cheek and speaking truth in my exhales - You did this for me. Please don't let me forget. Please keep coming for me.

It's his turn now, and my tears fall hot while he drops to his knees.
These are the tears I wanted for myself.
I don't know a thing about this man.

But I'm learning about the truth that lives and breathes in me. I know the power of that jagged chunk of bakery bread. I know the promise of the cup.

It's never too late to come home. It doesn't matter who you are, it doesn't matter what you've become.

Viper fangs unhinge over the contours of his skull. The soles of his shoes are black, nearly new. His pants are slung low and I'll never know the communion he shares as his knees rest on velvet and his soul touches God's.

I don't need to know.

This moment - my moment - was never about him.
The words were for me. His body, broken for me.

The bread lives inside me, pushing past my faithless heart, my vanity and pride, my ruthless refusal to get cozy with my own splintered soul.

In this community of misfits, in this shared cup, in words and notes, in the midst of my unfair judgments and staggering arrogance, God reels my heart back to him.

I'm home now. So thankful, now.
I know He'll never stop coming for me, but it feels good to keep asking, like a child, so I do.