I do not find or know God inside a church Sanctuary. But, Elizabeth! You work in the church! How can this be! I know it seems odd. Truthfully, in the many years of working in the church, the Sanctuary has lost its shine and purpose. I often find myself in the pew, looking around, distracted, wandering and wondering. Do we really believe what happens in here? Do we take it to heart? Do we comprehend the "Charge and Benediction" once we leave? If you are a church goer and don't know what I'm talking about, you've just proved my point. Do we take the call to go out into the world once we leave that Sanctuary? Do we transform ourselves and make room for God in our worldly Sanctuaries? More often than I'd like to admit, I don't think we do. Myself included.
Labor Day weekend, I spent time in several of my worldly Sanctuaries. Journeyed to my parent's house for the weekend to enjoy time with them. Drove the windy and picturesque backroads due to heavy traffic. The spoils of a cold beer on the back porch with my mom upon arrival. A few home cooked meals with my family. Journeyed to Auburn with my family for opening weekend football! Journeyed home again in a sweat, listening to the Dawgs hold on for dear life against Clemson. As has been engrained into my mind, we don't get to enjoy football on Saturday night without praising God on Sunday. So, we also journeyed to my little hometown church.
Cup filling. We often turn to worldly things to fill our cups, only to learn those worldly things cannot sustain us. Lately, my cup has been a constant battle of half full or even on drops. I find myself looking around and wondering, "Why am I always on empty?" As most complicated puzzles are, it is a combination of jumbled pieces.
Many of you saw this post on my social media feed recently:
SO many of you reacted, "liked", commented and sent private messages. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I was also overwhelmed with sadness. For every one of those "likes" represented a human person who has been there and felt the same exact things. I did not respond to many of you personally and I want you to know it is because I did not know what to say. Words did not feel worthy. Know, your words touched me and made me feel less alone. Prior to this post, I reached out to a friend of mine with a vague and cryptic text. She sniffed me right out, as she always does. Called almost immediately and asked, "Are you okay?" I spilled. The words, worries, anxiety and stress spilling all the way out.
What happens to our cups when drink out of them? What happens to our cups when we share them? Especially when we share with children... you know where I'm going with this. There is backwash. Ew! That's gross! I know. But it is true! It's like you know its there, but you don't look for it. Then once you see it, you can't un-see it and you have to do something about it. What do you do? I hope you start over!
My cup doth not runneth over. Frankly, my cup has been full and backwash, then empty for a while now. And I'm okay with that because I know something else has to happen before I can start over. My cup needs to be cleansed. This is the part I don't think people spend enough time with. Why? Because it is uncomfortable. No one likes to feel weird and off balance. It is not the "norm." We see those sweet social media posts from people all over posting pictures of their kids or happy moments with the caption, "My cup runneth over." I've done it too, no judgement. We encourage each other to think our cups should always be full. We encourage each other that when life is hard, to gain a new perspective to see things more positively. Or to "Remember, the grass is always greener." (I hate that phrase by the way. Don't use it on me. I'll roll my eyes.) We're not taught to sit in the uncomfortable and weird for a minute. We're not taught how to acknowledge the junk which seeps into our cups. We're not taught that it is okay, typical even, to be on empty for a little while. It is okay to pour out your cup, share your cup and take a minute to be empty. Take the time to be cleansed for what is to come. My cup doth not runneth over. I've also looked around and realized my cup is filled and emptied at equal rates. As soon as I feel my cup filled, I turn to find ways to pour it out and share. This is how God made me. It is one of my most favorite things about myself. It is what God has called me to do. But I'm in need of a serious refill. A fresh and sustained refill.
I talked about it earlier. Journeying through my worldly Sanctuaries. Football stadiums, really? Yep. God is there. My car? Yep. God is there too. My parent's back deck? If you saw the green of the trees from that view, you'd agree, God is there. In taking a break from my role in filling the little cups and their counter parts, I attended my hometown church Sanctuary. We arrived early. If you know us, you know, we always do. I was greeted at the door by one of my all time favorite church family members. We sat in our pew. I took a deep breath and felt at home. I watched as the old members filtered in and greeted one another in those familiar ways I saw as a child. As the sun poured into those comforting stained glass windows, I listened to the music without being distracted. I heard every word of the sermon. I got a little teary witnessing my momma and my first grade teacher stand next to each other as they served communion. The best kind of cup filling, I was able to hug and hold my best friend and her babies. The relief of the refill. I'm not going to say, "My cup runneth over." Mostly because this now feels incredibly cliché, but it also feels inaccurate. While my time in my little church Sanctuary began to fill my cup, it doesn't provide all the filling. No Sanctuary should be able to do that, no matter what they tell you. We must go out into the worldly Sanctuaries. Find the connection of God's filling outside. This is how we share our cups, especially with those who are not welcome. This is how God creates something where there might be nothing. Through us and in us.
I do not find or know God inside a church Sanctuary, but because of it, I feel God everywhere else. I believe, this is by God's design. My cup doth not runneth over. I believe, this is by God's design.