Tonight I had a very therapeutic and unexpected experience. In the interest of Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You, I went to church. By myself. For the first time in about 7 years.
I have a very strong connection with God and the Universe and I feel that I am a very spiritual person, but I am not a churchgoer. My friend and co-worker Pastor Ginny leads a Blue Christmas service. It's meant to be a service of understanding that there are people who are not always dealing with joy and happiness during Christmas time. It's meant to have a quiet, somber feel and focus on those who have been grieving and seeking comfort. For some people, the approaching Christmas holiday does not bring with it joy and happiness. As soon as I heard about this kind of service, it resonated with me. Pastor Ginny's church is not near my home, but she told me about her friend Rev. Heather who was also leading a Blue Christmas service tonight.
I was surprised to find that Rev. Heather's church was a mere 2 minute drive from my front door. I parked, I went inside, met Rev. Heather, and as I sat in a pew in the quiet church, I could already feel the tears behind my eyes.
At the front of the church, the Reverend set out candles of all shapes and sizes. Her intern began to play his guitar.
It had been a long time since I sat in a church pew, giving in to emotion and silent reflection. It felt good. And what happened next was, as Rev. Heather later said, "probably meant to be."
What happened next was that no one else came.
I was the only one at the service.
It was initially extremely uncomfortable. Awkward even. I moved to the front of the church, laughing nervously and apologizing. But the Reverend assured me it was perfectly okay. I told her honestly that I felt as though I was wasting her time since I was the only one there. But she told me I was there because I needed it and that wasn't a waste of her time at all. Instead, she welcomed me to the altar and I sat in a circle of sorts with her and her intern. I told her I was afraid I would become emotional and feel even more vulnerable because I was all alone. Her reply was that it was okay and that she and her intern would be emotional with me. She followed the program as though I was not the only one there, but she talked to me too.
She invited me to light candles in turn for those we have lost, to redeem the pain of loss, to remember ourselves, and for our loved ones, friends, and the world. Then she asked me what my husband's name had been and I told her. "I am going to light a candle for Rick," she said. She lit a large one. I lit one too.
She also gave me a heart to represent healing and God's presence.
One of the last parts of the blessing as the service was ending was, "It will get smoother. It will get easier. It will get better."
I truly believe it, because I've witnessed it happen over this tumultuous year. I was emotional and I did cry. In fact, while the Reverend invited me to talk to her as we still sat there at the altar, I found myself saying, "I don't know what to say." And I cried. And so did she.
In fact, she went to get me a box of tissues.
I answered some questions she asked me and I told her some things about this year. "I'm a positive person," I said.
"I can tell," she told me.
Her intern continued to play softly while we talked. And when the Reverend said, "I think it was probably meant to be just you tonight," I knew it was true. She hugged me and told me I could return to talk with her.
I thanked her several times and as she walked me out, she printed her upcoming sermon for me because she said something told her it was what she should do. I hugged her again when I left and I did not feel awkward at all that I was the only one to show up tonight.
I was led.