I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about church and relationships and how those two things should fit together. And how they should fit together in my own life. It’s caused me to reevaluate and redefine some things. And it’s caused me to have a pretty rough couple of weeks. I ended up in a place that didn’t feel so good and before I knew it, I had worked myself up into a full-blown spiritual crisis.
So today, I wanted to go find God somewhere.
Like other people who grew up in Sunday School, I learned early on that God is everywhere. He’s with us all the time. He’s in our hearts. I get that. But I wanted to find him where I hadn’t looked for him before. In a place apart from my own religious traditions.
I remembered the ancient (by American standards, anyway) Catholic churches I visited as a child in Santa Fe. These buildings – some a couple hundred years old – stand open every day to welcome people in for prayer, whether they are Catholic or not. They didn’t care that I was an 11-year-old Church of Christ kid. They even let me light a candle to a saint I had never heard of.
I wanted to find God in a place like that. A place with ornate stained-glass windows and heavy wooden doors and people in robes who say things like “Eucharist” and “Maundy Thursday” and “diocese” and swing metal birdcages around with incense wafting out of them. A place with kneeling benches and stone floors and a general air of holiness. Surely there are places like that in a city like Little Rock.
So I googled.
And I found one. Christ Church Episcopal. It’s downtown, near the Capitol. Christ Church is known for its stone building with red doors. Sort of like a spiritual Elizabeth Arden. They keep the red doors open on weekdays for people like me to come in and pray. So I went.
I walked in through the red doors and instantly regretted wearing boots. It was so quiet in there, and my boots on the tile floor made it impossible for me to sneak in. I sat toward the back and an official looking man approached me. He apologized for all the activity going on in there at the time (some people were working on something at the pulpit and a janitor was mopping the floor) and offered to show me to the chapel. He took me to a smaller room off to the side – a room with marble floors and wooden kneeling benches.
“Stay as long as you like,” he said as he left.
I was kind of disappointed he wasn’t wearing a robe. I guess they only do that on Sundays.
I looked around the room. Stained glass, of course. Candles and a gold cross engraved with “IHS.” (What does that mean? There’s so much I don’t know.) Red prayer cushions dented by the knees of the faithful. Except for the city sounds outside, I sat in silence and took in a couple of Psalms, as well as “The Book of Common Prayer” in the book rack in front of me. Then I just tried to be there and be still – something so hard for me to do. I tried to focus on letting God in through all my senses. Breathing him in and letting him be… enough.
And I knew that in his infinite enoughness, God still gives me a wonderfully comforting husband who doesn’t act too perplexed when his wife cries for a week straight. And friends who pray from hundreds of miles away. Friends whose prayers really work. And two girls who continuously bring me joy. I am ridiculously blessed.
I wrote earlier that this process has taken me to a place that did not feel good. But it did today. Today, it led me to an open door.