For the first time in a while, I made it to church. My church, that is.
My son Sid had mentioned that it had been a while since we went there. Do eleven-year-olds do this? It is heartening to hear him remind dad, instead of the battle it had been when he was younger to get up so we could make our way to the service.
Sunday morning we sat in our frequent place—maybe a little unfamiliar with the lapse of time and the fact that we attended the later service, and we have been, generally, early service attendees, where we chatted with familiar faces instead of the later service habit of stacking chairs for custodial staff.
We sat in our place, scouted out by Sid, with our friends Barbara and her son Zander. I sat with my arm around the back of Sid's chair, about as much public affection a preteen would allow, and my hand in Barbara's, about as much as it took to make me feel the wonder of how good it felt that day.
And I cried. I don't know why. I cried the first time Sid and I went to church together. I also cried the first time Sid and I attended our first baseball game, just the two of us. The church and the ball park: two of America's greatest Cathedrals. Two places where we run the risk of misplacing worship—something we can afford at neither place.
Sunday morning, I started to cry with the first song. I don't know why, but I was happy. Over what, I can't be sure—something more sentimental than salvation, and less practical. I don't know. Part of the mood was seeing my son sing—some songs that at some times are favorites; some that he may play on his guitar soon—if he practices. Maybe it was sharing that piece of love with Barbara for the first time, at a time when we really needed it. Maybe it was a joy of taking our sons to a very important place, maybe—just maybe more important than the ball park.
At the ball park, we watch and dream of heroes on the field and in our memories. There are great and beautiful stories behind those diamonds. There are pages full of heroes in the primary text of worship and as many heroes who have been created since the consecration of those texts. There were a few of them, sitting next to me, two thirds of the way back on the right side of the gym where the services are held: one hero who could hardly sit still through such a grown-up service whose restlessness was interrupted by some songs (Sid promised Zander, “It gets better soon,” with more music.) and the recognition of a Bible story he knows from reading with his mom almost nightly; one hero who gave me a bit of joy and security in the palm of her hand against the palm of mine, an intermittent gaze and a shared pleasure in where we had taken our sons—taken ourselves; one hero who let dad know that he was ready to go back to church and who turned to me half way through the service saying, “We have to come back next week.” This is a blessing.
I don't think any of my heroes saw me crying. It was a very faint tear and in the middle of one or two songs; they were reading lyrics. Doesn't matter.
What does matter? Something: Whatever it is we get from being there. Whatever is important. Something in a message. Something in the spirit. Maybe even something in the lefty pose that doesn't always seem necessary but marks our congregation for good or ill. Something about being there with people for whom I care.
The first time I set foot in one of the services, it was with a Love from a previous stage in life. It was not I who cried that Sunday, but she. Maybe because that Sunday, her children were not there. It is hard to trace the paths of those griefs, sorrows and joys. They intertwine and no one can tell the difference. Another neatly concealed secret.
Next week, I will not cry. I promise. I will listen, enjoy the space with reverent gratitude (the topic of Sunday's message) and wait for a cookie after the service. Maybe a moment to dream about baseball. But today, I will pray for more of my heroes.