It finally happened after two long years.
My husband and I darkened the door of a church for Easter Sunday.
We were away for the weekend so we found a small traditional church very close by and donned our masks (at the behest of the front-door greeters) and sat down.
The service felt familiar, the songs upbeat (it was Easter Sunday after all) and the sermon short.
We took communion and, of course, I had a little freak out on the way back to my seat because I forgot that I'm not supposed to eat gluten anymore and I was pretty sure the wafer was filled with it.
Needless to say, I didn't blow up like a balloon or have my throat close or any such thing within 15 seconds, so I hunkered back in my seat until the end of the service.
When it was over, our car ride home was filled with talks of how it felt and what we thought about this old, but new embarkation we found ourselves on.
I had some words, but none captured all that was swirling around. It was the same with my tall, darkish and handsome man who attempted to hash it out with me.
For two days, I wrestled back and forth and back and forth and back and forth about what I wouldn't have given a second thought just 24 months ago.
What had happened that chilly spring morning, hymn book in hand, and what was still churning inside of me?
Even with the trauma of pandemics and large crowds and being inside, the trifecta for spreading germs, I was surprised that none of that crossed my mind, other than being annoyed at the blue cloth against my cheeks while trying to sing and wishing this whole thing would finally be D.O.N.E. in every which way.
But other such things, things that had nothing to do with the trumpets in the balcony, the matching-outfit couple on the other side of the church, or the offering plate passed, just kept showing up.
Not screaming, but whispering. Inviting me to pause and listen.
To the struggle.
Of my soul.
My soul that loves the sacred space of community, and all that it brings and gives like the Easter Bunny doling out eggs filled with surprises and sweets.
A sense of belonging. Others to walk alongside in the good and the bad. Differences in age, stage, lifestyle and lines of thinking. People like me and some that are not, my favorite.
As I dug a little deeper and listened a little harder, what found me was grief and joy all intertwined together in one jumbled-up beautiful mess.
GRIEF for what I've lost.
By rigid faith systems that say I have to believe the very exact same way to belong.
By my own personal and necessary journey.
and JOY for what I've found.
In slowing down instead of rush rush rushing on Sunday mornings.
In a curious heart that feels much more like God so loved the world, not just those who have the right dogma or doctrines, look like, sound like, do like, or believe exactly like me.
In the freedom from the chains of fear and shame that are slowly being broken one link at a time, hopefully never to shackle me again.
And mostly, I found myself, loved by Jesus, in the middle of the the pile of rubble and rising.
I'm not sure when I will head back to the pews again.
Perhaps today or next summer or three years from now.
But I am glad that I went last Sunday.
Because I saw Jesus that Easter morning.
In the faces of the people. In the wine I drank.
And especially in the chatter and confusion of the car ride after.
I'm not surprised. Not at all.
And isn't that kind of the point?