I went to church today. It was a more traditional church that I am used to and the choreography of the service reminded me of the old Southern Baptist church I would go to when I was in junior high school. The pews were wooden, creaky, and uncomfortable. I remember pulling out the circular rubber stoppers that were used for communion cups on the backs of the pews in front of my knees and pretending with my friends that they were wedding rings and imagining who we might marry someday in a church like the one we were in.
It was in those years that I sang hymns in the choir and followed the choreography of the service. Sit up for this. Sit down for that. Turn around and greet your neighbor.
In the years following and for most of my life, I have been exposed to so many different breeds of Christianity but have tended to gravitate to less formal and more charismatic versions. Jeans, coffee, hands up, flags waving… I like the unpredictable services. It reminds me that God can do what He wants when he wants and I don’t get to determine what that is. It’s comforting symbolism to know that He can lead and I can just follow.
But today I was in a church that was a throwback to my youth. On the second song of the pre-published playlist of five, a hymn erupted. My thoughts drifted back and as I sat in a sea of grey hairs, I noticed a fervor and a sincerity to the hymn that I found surprising and endearing. It was powerful. The snowbirds are coming back to Florida and a generation that was raised in pews with heavy green hymnals surrounded me. Their singing moved me. I felt the cry of people who were just like me in every way except chronologically and it occurred to me that They Know.
They know that they are not too far off. That they would get to see Him face to face and that somehow they were well aware on this Sunday morning that their journey was almost over and rest and redemption was coming soon. I felt jealous for a moment that they might beat me there.
I thought about how little I lived like Heaven is real. I thought this morning, with tears streaming down my face about how brave they were, all around me. Years and years of stories and dreams and accomplishments that would fade shortly except for the one thing that really matters. And they knew exactly what that was.
The pew ring in front of me reminded me once again about romantic hopes that are not so far off. The Bridegroom is coming soon. There is no fear of death. We will be loved for all eternity.
All of the striving, self-promotion, trying to make a name, trying to be good, and living in fear of what people think will vanish in one final moment and nothing will matter except Him. The Groom of our hearts. The perfect Love.
I’m not sure I will remember the sermon I heard today in a month or two, but I know that the sound of the sweet lady with the cane singing her song so beautifully next to me will stick with me maybe for forever. I hope so.