Last night I went through the endless phone messages that we just don't get to on the answering machine. Well! I guess I use my cell phone more than I thought. Note. And there was that mishap with Kohl's where in the midst of the holidays a bill wasn't paid and they called fifteen times. Note. Paid. Done. Oh dear.
About seven calls in I heard his voice. My wonderful pastor Harold. "Beautiful ones. I noticed you haven't been here in a couple of weeks and just want to remind you, you're loved..." And while he goes on it hits so hard.
The weeks away, first a sick child.
Then a group oversleep.
Then just a week away.
They all added up and they all mattered to someone else.
I felt, I knew, that my little choices to be home for a bit might be noticed or counted. Might be.
My church is going through upheaval. Upheaval is to be expected when your stated mission is to plant 100 churches in 40 years. One and two went by and the shift wasn't so big. Three was painful, my favorite young pastor and his sweeter than sweet wife moved into Compton to establish their church and of course, friends went with them. Friends I love and friends I haven't met but made up the tapestry of our church, their side of the room, their row. Many church plants later we're ok. The occasional twinge of loss is there, but overall, we're good. But then two pastors felt called, together, to plant fairly nearby. Several people, mostly from my service felt moved to move.
The pain comes slowly because families think and decide and stay away for a while and then go. A month ago, it felt to me like I was wearing twenty bandaids and they would be taken off one-by-one and rather slowly. Painful.
So when my girl wasn't feeling well, I climbed into bed and with her and snuggled. Safe and warm. I didn't think of the feeling. I was away. But as I write, I see we became an empty set of chairs. Someone else's removed adhesive.
Then the words: "Beautiful ones..."
I heard the voice of the man who taught me the words, grace stacked on grace. I hear his inflection, his determination, his love. For a moment, I remember how he asked me to stand shoulder-to-shoulder to work and love and watch what God would do. Remembered his reminder at my grandmother's funeral and then my other grandmother's graveside memorial, that God's oceanic love is enough.
It takes courage to carry on. It takes grace and peace and it takes just a word to remember that courage and love and peace can all be borrowed and shared and that much of the time, we don't even know we're loaning. We just standing there. Shoulder-to-shoulder with word of song coming from our hearts and it matters.