- Hours of sleep last night: Six (but no more than one at a time)
- Minutes to leave the house: 40
- Meltdowns over leaving the house: One
- Minutes to drive to church: 20
- Bridges crossed: Two
- New tunnels driven through: One
- Minutes to find parking: 20
- Blocks walked to church: Four
- Daughters in the care of others: Two
- Minutes late to church service: 29
- Days until we move down the street from this place and never have to park here again: Six
I’m wedged in the front corner of a full sanctuary, technically sitting on the windowsill nearest the emergency exit, almost even with the wide stage. This has long been my favorite seat, quiet and anonymous, my back against the cool window and my knees drawn up under my chin, though I haven’t sat here in years.
With Timmy traveling this weekend and daughters in Sunday School or nursery, sitting alone in church feels a little like time travel. I’ve gone to Bethany Community Church in Seattle since I was eleven, and started sitting in this windowsill shortly after the “new” sanctuary was built in 2007, so this is a place full of history. History for my family—we were married here, and Luci was dedicated here three years ago—but more so history for me. Of childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, all different seasons for this ever-changing church and the pastor’s daughter trying to figure out where she fits into it all.
I’m still trying, I confess. Eight years in missions were, ironically, not eight years rich in church life. I spent the time wondering what church was really for, and trying to decipher how best to honor the need for worship in community and Sabbath rest in a place where those two sometimes tended to cancel each other out. When Luci was old enough to notice we started going back to our little English-speaking service in Kandern with some regularity, but our decision was mostly out of a desire to model habits of worship and community for our daughter than anything else. In that sense we succeeded—Luci loves church—but we came home longing to understand how to invest more fully in life-giving church community.
Partway through the sermon on Romans 15, my father’s discussion of unity trends toward the difficulty of truly loving those we spend the most time with. He quotes Dostoevsky, who famously opined that it is far more difficult to love a real neighbor—a needy, sneezing, over-talkative person—than the human race in general. The true challenge of community, the place we’re invited to love richly and fully, if sometimes with difficulty, is in the midst of sharing life with people we see often, investing in the messy work of relationship. He ends by encouraging us to “keep showing up” in our relationships and communities, both in this church and in the other places we find ourselves.
I think about the challenges showing up presented this morning. I’m tired and a bit grouchy, having slept little this week because of the four-month-old who decided that sleeping should only happen in my arms, and the three-year-old with whom I’ve argued far more than I like. I’ve always known in theory that parking is bad around my church, but this morning I felt the full reality of the problem, as I calculated how far and how fast we could walk to catch at least some of the service we’d driven across the city to attend. Before I got out of bed I daydreamed about walking to the bakery for a croissant and calling it a good Sabbath, but we came anyway.
And as the sermon ends, I think I’m glad we did. It’s easy to complain about the lack of community in this city (or this country, from our perspective), but I’m reminded by this familiar building, full of mostly unfamiliar people, that community takes time. It always has. And even though I’m “returning” to this home, I’m a different me, and it’s a different home than it was eight years ago. As it must be.
Dad comes over to my windowsill after the sermon. “Look at you!” he exclaims. “You’re kid-free.”
“Look at me,” I repeat. “I could be twenty-five. But I’m super not twenty-five.”
A new season in an old church. A new chance to learn in a place as imperfect as I am, but still home, worth showing up for as I learn and relearn to love my neighbors and live in unity as a member of the body of Christ.