Warning – this post is long, potentially boring and gets into religion.
So I’ve been going to J’s church with her since after Christmas. It’s been nice, we jokingly say we’re in a bubble together in a lot of different places, at parties it’s just the two of us together, out and about downtown, and at church. She’s trying to be more public about her faith and as such, is a little self conscious and worried about being judged, and having her faith judged.
It’s a mega-church. There are multiple campuses around town and the original one is closing down soon. We went there for the first time together a couple weekends ago, she’d already been but I wanted to go at least once before it shuts down. We’ve gone to a couple of different campuses already, so when we walked out, I made some comments on the service and the campus, both positive and negative. It was my way of cataloging my thoughts on the place. I did it out loud, thinking we were having an open conversation.
When I was a kid, we went to church faithfully. Every weekend, my sisters would complain and tease me about my singing, that I was horribly off-key. Every weekend, I’d try not to sing and every weekend I’d get a tweak from one of my parents to start. What made it worse was that my Dad would tell stories about singing in groups as a side-job when he moved out on his own. He always had a great voice and I always wanted to be like him, but apparently could just screech like a dying cat. I was really self conscious about my singing, and only in recent years have started doing it more in front of people. In the car on road-trips for sure, but more recently at church, really seeing it as a means of worship.
One of my comments when we left the church was that I didn’t like the way the worship leader (what they call the lead singer of the music group) changed some of the words in the songs. In the Catholic church they have hymnals. But in these other churches that I’ve been going to, they just project the words on a screen behind the band, a verse at a time. For some reason J got really defensive on the musician’s behalf. Saying she’s a creative and allowed to change things on a whim, etc. I didn’t mean to get into an argument about it, but I felt the need to explain my point of view. If she wants to put on a concert, then tell us to sit back and enjoy the music. But if they tell us to stand and join them in worship, and her paid job is “worship leader”, then she should stick to the words and help us sing along. Eventually we got through it and I didn’t think much of it, other than that it was odd that she felt the need to defend her so much.
The next morning I got some kind of… snarky texts from her about how she didn’t want to hear my opinion anymore. I called her that night to hash it out and it went much further downhill from there. The next four days were hell. This crazy, chaotic argument that I didn’t understand. I spent the entire week just lost and sad and hurt. Originally she talked about being a creative and worried that I’d start judging her so harshly. Then it jumped to something else, and something else, and something else. I couldn’t keep up. Every time we’d talk through one thing, she’d bring something else, something out of left field, unrelated to whatever we were originally talking about.
Finally Wednesday night I said I thought she either didn’t want to be in a relationship, or she didn’t want to be in a relationship with ME and was trying to push me away. We had an okay-ish talk, and started seeing eye-to-eye on things, but it was hard to see how we could move forward. She’d hurt me a lot, scared me a lot. Said some things that tapped into my fears. But we agreed to keep talking. Thursday morning she texted me. She’d spent the morning working with a close male co-worker and talked about it. Talking to another guy helped. He was able to explain a lot of how I look at things and process. The fact that my job used to be life and death and I took it seriously. And I probably had problems turning that off and not judging people through that lens. That I probably thought someone should take the role of “Worship Leader” pretty seriously, since it could be saving peoples’ souls. He also seconded my opinion that she was trying to sabotage things.
She and I had talked about fear before, and her trying to push me away, months ago. She had to think about it and admit that it was probably true. So she texted me that stuff a little more concisely than I just typed it out. We texted some throughout the day, then when I got home had a long phone call. We talked more about her being scared and trying to sabotage things in depth. I asked if her sub-conscious was trying to tank the relationship because deep down she felt something was wrong, or if it was something else. She said it was something else, that she was scared of being happy. Then she asked me if I wanted to keep trying.
I did. I do. But at that time it was really, really complicated. The relationship has been fairly bi-polar from the beginning, but this was different. It was significantly meaner than it’d ever been before. And after so long, and that perceived meanness, it was hard for me to say “yes” right away. I told her I wanted to keep trying, but she had to do some work. And she had to be patient. I didn’t think we were going to snap right back from this one. I felt like it was going to take awhile to get over being hurt and to feel safe with her again. When someone tells you they don’t want to hear your opinion, even if they take it back and apologize for it later, it’s hard to get past that. So I was worried that it’d be awkward and uncomfortable and that it might not work out. But she said she was willing to try, and understood that it might be a bad situation for awhile. I also told her that I probably wasn’t going to be singing at church. That it wasn’t me trying to be stubborn or do it out of spite to prove a point, but that the situation had gotten so big and weird and it just felt too forced or contrived or something.
We talked about getting together on Friday night. Originally it was kind of a “Well, do you want to get dinner? Or go see a movie?” kind of thing, but then I said “Look, just pack a bag for the weekend and come over like usual.” Figured if it didn’t work out, or was too weird, she could always go home early, but if we were going to try and make it work…
She walked through the door and within about ten minutes, things were just great again… The distance thing kills us. We’re adults, with busy lives. It’s hard for us to see one another too often during the week. And that time apart and alone hurts us. We spent the weekend talking about the various issues that had popped up during the week, and being face-to-face made things so, so much better. Every weekend for the last couple of weekends, things have just gotten better (when we’re not fighting, that is). Walls are coming down, she’s relaxing more with me, we seem closer and seem to be having more fun. So things were going great.
But then… It was time for church. This particular church generally opens with a song, then the sermon, then generally two-three songs at the end. Kinda sung with the first one, kind of didn’t. The sermon was powerful to me. It was about weaknesses, and God using our weaknesses, and sometimes forcing us to have them for various reasons. It applied to me in a lot of different ways. Then they did communion. This isn’t like the Catholic church, where every service centers around the communion. In the months that I’ve been attending, this was the first time that they’d offered it. There might be a whole other blog later about it, but I like the way these churches do communion. I like that fact that instead of it being a relatively individual thing, me and the priest, that it can be a communal thing. They asked us to take the communion juice and wafers, then as we felt the time was right during the final songs to partake.
Then it was time for the final songs. The worship leader came out, started singing, and immediately screwed it all up, to the point where her band couldn’t follow her. So she stopped, hit her head for a second, then apologized to everyone and made a joke.
I dunno what happened. But there was a feeling that overcame me. I’ll never be able to explain it in a way that you can understand. I think part of why this has taken so long to write is that to me, it’s just going to sound silly to anyone reading it. There was just peace and certainty and the anxiety just left me. I felt safe and loved and all the good things we could ever hope to feel.
That’s the first time I’ve ever seen one of those worship leaders just stop everything and start over again. I don’t know why, but it was just the perfect thing to happen. It just… made everything ok. I’m not sure if there was a takeaway from it. Did it remind me that they’re human and make mistakes? Probably not, I think I knew that. Did it make it ok for me to be a terrible singer? Maybe. Did it remind me that in church, we’re all accepted and cherished for our imperfections? Dunno. Haven’t really thought on it til now, and I probably won’t finish up before I’m done typing. But it was moving and I was wiping away tears. In public. Again. Thanks for breaking me there, shrink-lady. But as I was doing it, J moved closer to me and put her hand on the small of my back and I just felt so, so safe and loved and accepted. That “Daddy” feeling I didn’t have before? That was it. As I was putting my glasses back on, a new verse popped on the screen. I wish I could remember its exact wording, but the gist was that God could heal all broken hearts. A few moments later, while in this bubble, we shared communion together.
We talked about it in the car on the way to lunch. I’m not sure what she felt in that time and place. There’s still a tiny little bit of roller-coaster in our relationship. I’m sure we’ll continue to disappoint one another. But hopefully we’ll also surprise and delight one another as well. I don’t know where this is going, but I wanted to type this out. I wanted to remember this next time I’m complaining about not feeling like God ever speaks to me. These events can be deciphered any which way, but I’m choosing to read it as His blessing on where we are and what we’re doing right now.