It's not that my kids aren’t capable of interesting conversation, or even occasional displays of empathy, it's just hard to consider them good company when I know that they view me as a representation – of boundaries, of safety, of dinner. They cannot fathom that I would have needs and insecurities, or be weighed down by solitude. Mid-week, after going three straight days without adult conversation or changing my juice-stained shirt, my children may sense a bit of melancholy clouding the eyes of their cereal, milk, and pretzel producing mother, but that is where the pondering ends. And that is where it should end, I believe, for they are still too young and fragile to be wincing at the pangs of isolation.
I remember when I first felt it, at the age of ten or eleven. “It’s like I’m homesick,” I tried to explain to my preoccupied parents “except the weird thing is that I haven’t left for anywhere.” Over time I would grow to recognize that gnawing sensation as loneliness, as an inability to feel at peace in my surroundings. Marriage couldn’t fill it - the gaping hole stuffed to the brim with high expectations that suddenly, and without warning, would chew up those ideals like a garbage disposal, leaving nothing but the familiar emptiness I had carried since adolescence. Motherhood, even with its constant exposure to other human beings, tiny and needy as they were, did not distract me from the underlying awareness that sometimes my skin feels too tight, and my heart too boxy for beating comfortably within its temporary encasement. My spirit, like a caged tiger, paces with the suspicion that it was created to run faster, jump higher, and travel further than is possible behind these hard as metal barriers of skin and bone.
Participating in Divine Liturgy at my neighborhood parish on Sunday mornings is not only refreshing because I get to sing, to worship, to commune, to wear shoes that clap instead of squish when they walk across a floor, but also because of my place within the center of its community. What does a stay-at-home mother of four have in common with a fifty-year-old businessman, or a harried graduate school student facing midterms and 20 page papers? What could she find so fulfilling in cups of coffee with fellow parishioners, as varied as the colors in a rainbow? What, you may ask, is so thrilling about a bunch of normal people listening over the shrills of nap deprived toddlers to a pointed homily from a priest, who is also normal yet miraculously exceptional in that he has been blessed to offer from his imperfect hands the untarnished flesh and blood of our Savior? Everything I tell you, and the only thing that matters!
Beneath the nearsighted eyes, graying hairs, and wrinkled dress shirts standing in line for the Eucharist, I find God, Himself, burning in the souls of the ordinary. I find an eternal connection through shared prayers, and longings for something greater, something purer, something tangible in this world of illusions, where reality is as foundationless as a snow fort melting in the heat of the sun. Only when I cease to view myself as an entirety, when I accept my place as a toe, or a knuckle in the greater body of Christ, can the life force of heaven pulsate through me, warming my insides with purpose. Only here, in the Church, where mingling with saints and angels is also normal, yet miraculously exceptional, can my spirit get a taste of liberation. Only here, within the context of absolute Truth can my identity become solid and defined.
The fact that your face lights up with recognition when I say, “sinfulness,” “redemption,” or “eternity,” that you come and participate with the “great cloud of witnesses,” when you could have slept in or cleaned out your garage, that around your neck I see the glimmer of a silver chain from which dangles a cross silently claiming your allegiance to the death and resurrection of Jesus, gives me courage to keep walking forward. Within a Trinity is how God chose to manifest Himself - three in one, distinctive yet impossible to pin down and separate. This is our example, our justification that the overlapping of joys and sorrows from your life into mine, binding us together through salvation, is holy and right. This is why every self-serving pursuit will undoubtedly disappoint us. Midweek, after dabbling in my share of worldly cares, melancholy calls me Home – back to the body of Christ, where the ordinary become extraordinary, where heaven touches earth, where you and I entwine our lives with faith.