I walked into the Classic Service yesterday. An eerily welcoming place, comforting yet devastating. Grief overwhelmed me at once and flooded my entire body as if on a cellular level. Our bodies are so intelligent; their ability to store deep-seated memories, pain, loss, joys, shifts; to sense changes of what was, and what is no longer. It is beyond my finite brain to wrap itself around, but God's Infinite creation is glorified in this process. Although the grief jolted like a lightning rod to the heart, there was also this depth of peace as if I was at home for the first time in a long while. I stood against the back wall of an upper room of the large church as the Hymns were being sung beautifully. "How Deep the Father's Love" was the one I walked into (also very apropos to this very moment in time). I squeezed my Bible a little closer to my stomach as if it were a life raft (it might as well be). Smiles and greetings from familiar faces were received and given. I hadn't been to this service in a while, in fact I had been avoiding it. It is as if, he who shall not be named, got custody of the 9 a.m. service and I got the 11 a.m. main service. It just worked out that way.
The last time I came to Classic was actually with him, so I assumed he may come to this one on occasion. It always was a safe place for us, we really enjoyed it and all the people. They felt like family and still do. One familiar face in particular was an extra friendly one; she was a mutual friend of ours. Oh such a sweet dear friend. She gave the biggest grin and said with teeth fully revealed in excitement, "Are you looking for someone??" She must not have heard yet. She must not have noticed on social media. I had tried not to make it too painfully obvious or mean and yet I tried to make it obvious enough that these very kind of moments would not happen so much (oh who am I kidding?! I was avoiding these moments like the plague). I just looked at her with a half smile through tearing up eyes as I nodded my head and said, "No." I tried not to make it too sad. Here I am trying to protect her while I am breaking inside. Typical. Oh I have a lot to learn, and always will. But that is okay. He is with me. Emmanuel. The joy was that I felt loved and cared for in that moment by her and everyone in that room, whether they knew or not that me and my ex-boyfriend were no longer together.
So I stood against that back wall for a while. I hated the fact that every time a door opened or someone walked by my peripheral I had to look and see if it was him. Part of me dreaded it in a fearful panic knowing I would completely fall apart if it were, and the other part was hoping, praying maybe it would be him. It had been three weeks since the break-up and I finally felt sort of like I could handle seeing him, almost as if I wanted to, but at the same time feeling like "Wait no! You will lose it! That's crazy! You can't even walk into church without crying?!" This church, especially this service, penetrated my heart with so many flash-flood memories of "us" that it felt almost unbearable at times. I knew it was important to face, so I walked on and kept showing up, by His grace. So I talked with God the night before because I truly know HE wants the best for my heart and Dustin's. He knows the timing for the healing process. You cannot rush grief or healing or God's timing. Oh how I wish you could. A very serious year and a half with someone, oh that is not rush-able. I just asked Him to not let us bump into each other until we could fully handle that without it setting us backwards not forwards in our healing with HIM. Keep us on the course God. Your course. One day at a time. Insert the LORD I NEED YOU song right about now.
Alright so back to the back wall...A part of me just wanted to be a gregarious loner and slide right down to the floor and watch the sermon from there. But courage told me to go find a seat. His Spirit scoped a spot for me and I sat in between an elderly man and two seats over from a woman on the end of the aisle (still toward the very back of the room). Hey, I never said I was running to the front row, hopping and skipping, but at least I moved from the back wall to the back aisle. Baby steps. Grace abounds people. Literally though, this is exactly where God wanted me to sit. Chip Ingram starts to teach his lesson for the week and asks us the get our sermon notes out. I start having this inner dialogue with myself that goes something like this...
Oh man God, "he" used to always get the programs for us. We always sat together in the Classic service. We always went to church together. Every Sunday for the last year and a half. We rarely ever missed a Sunday, ever. When we would sit down and forget to grab the programs at the door he would always run back and grab them for us, for me. Those little things you appreciate and yet take for granted and in moments like these I wish he was sitting right here and handing me the program. That we were going to spend the Sunday together. Oh stop. No no. Stop thinking that. You don't wish that. It's over and done with, and it is for the best. Because God knows best. Oh but it still hurts. Oh it really hurts and my heart still misses. Stop it. But he was my best friend. It feels like a death. I feel so alone. I want to cry. Should I go grab a program? No I was already too distracting working my way into the last row, after the last song. Just go without it. It's okay. But you like writing notes though. Ugh. Oh well. You can write on some of your older notes.
All of a sudden a tap on the shoulder interrupts this inner dialogue. I look to my left to see the kind warm face of the elderly man sitting beside me. I look down at his hand reaching toward me, with program in hand, he says with a loving smile, "here you go, you can have mine, I don't need it." I literally just burst into tears and gasp, saying "Ohhhh thank you, thank you!" He not so shockingly says, "of course." I can tell he is very aware of my crying even though I am very much try to hide the sniffles, blinking profusely to disperse the leakage coming from each tear duct (and it ain't working one bit), wiping my nose with my wrist every couple seconds (by the way wearing a faux leather/pleather jacket that is nonabsorbent was not a genius plan today with the teary weepy situation happening). Oy vey. At the very top of the notes I immediately write "THANK YOU FATHER!" with a big heart doodle next to it. The man glances over to see what I wrote because I am clearly impacted by something. I wanted him to see it too.
After the sermon I was clear on my assignment. I needed to tell him what had just occurred; how deeply his Holy spirit obedience affected my heart. I turned to him and in a similar fashion I tapped him on the shoulder. He turned to me and I asked what his name was. We introduced ourselves. Before I could get another sentence out after my name, I started to well up again. I apologized in advance for getting emotional but he patiently listened with a gentle spirit. I could feel Jesus in him listening as well. I proceeded to say, "I just wanted to thank you for giving me your program. I know it seems like a simple thing, but it meant a lot to me. You see I was just talking to God and myself in my head about how my boyfriend used to always get the programs for us, for me. Well we just had a break-up. (I cried through the whole monologue). During this inner dialogue you graciously handed me your program. It literally was the perfect timing. I couldn't believe it. It was totally the Holy Spirit, and a hug from heaven. Thank you very much." He didn't say much but it was his presence that meant that most. He pulled me in for a big hug and said he completely understood what I was talking about. He then wished me a Merry Christmas.
As I walked away from church yesterday, let me just say, I heard God's voice telling me, "Malorie I know it is hard for you to show up on Sundays. To even show up. Especially to this church. I see you. I see your heart. The pain, fear, heartbreak, loss and yet courage to keep going. I love you! I am Your Father. I am Your Husband. I will get the programs for you honey. I love you dear. I haven't forgotten. I am here. I am near. I haven't left. I haven't given up on you. I won't. Ever. You are worth everything to me. Everything. I will keep showing you how much you mean to me. I will get the programs and I will sit by you at church."
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.- Psalm 23:6