Church kicked off yesterday with several super moving, extra heartfelt and encouraging songs. Hands raised. Voices loud. Then…with a wave of the choir director’s hand, a shift in musical key, and a flicker of the graphic displaying all the lyrics…
“It is well with my soul.”
I’m a church cryer, right? I can’t even help it. During just the right prayer, when there’s a baptism, watching people worship with hands raised…my tears are flowing. Church is personal to me. My relationship with Jesus is personal to me.
I’m filled with the spirit and all its joy, generally in life but especially in just the right church service.
I’m an absolutely wretched human, too, so all that talk of God’s grace and mercy, his love for me, his goodness, my blessings… all that makes me bawl. I’m so undeserving yet so overcome with gratitude.
And I’m often a mess who forgets that my soul is actually well. To hear me tell it sometimes, my soul is disturbed, quivering, and fragile. But it IS well. Truly with my soul.
That song is my jam.
So I’m standing there, singing to the heavens, having completely given up on the fruitless endeavor of wiping tears and just letting them flow, and I’m dancing a little, because hey, I dance.
“My husband said he saw you, Ms. Amanda.”
“I thought that was Ms. Amanda we saw near the front.”
“Ms. Amanda, I hope you’re ok, and I want you to know I’m praying for you.” (They saw me crying, no doubt.)
Aw, man. Here’s where I wrestle with the “church is personal” part.
I am seen.
I’m the dance teacher loved by many in a very small town crying in a slightly big church. I see no less than ten dancers and their families every Sunday, smile and wave at each one, hug and chit chat momentarily then move on through the crowd to get the next.
What used to be in my head…church is PERSONAL! Can’t I just be? Can’t I just worship and cry? Can’t I dance along and wipe tears? Can’t I go in a sinful mess just looking to be redeemed? Can’t I shed the weight of life’s burdens without an audience?
But I’ve been thinking about a little differently. And you know what? It is well with my soul.
My dancers and their families get to see that this mess of a mom, wife, and woman goes to church. They can see that my family comes, too. My husband holds my hand, and we sit close. They can see me carry a Bible, raise my hands, and pass an offering plate. They can see me fan with my purple, sequined fan (yep, that’s Extra Ms. Amanda). They can see me struggle and cry and mop tears while I sing. They can see me dance a little.
I’m not any kind of rock star or anything by any means. I have purple hair, and I’m not exactly low key, plus I know a metric ton of people, so it stands to reason that I might draw attention at church. It gets hard to have anonymity and privacy, personal time and space, in a small town. School teachers get this. Elected folks get this. There’s a million of them, but only one of us. It comes with the job. We know folks. We know children. We love folks.
I get hugs at restaurants, while buying toilet paper at Wal-Mart, when I’m picking up prescriptions at Walgreens. That’s good stuff, and I am grateful beyond words for so much love that I both receive AND can share.
And that’s it. It really is SO WELL with my soul that I WANT to share love and joy when I’m out and about. I want the families who entrust their children with me to see me at church. I want the children to see that Ms. Amanda loves Jesus, and she’s a bit of sniffling mess when a good ol’ hymn cranks up.
Being reminded that my soul is well helps me with a lot of things, including this little change of heart about my not-so-personal church-going experience. I’ve been wrestling with the “feeling seen” part for a while. My I am reminded that my Christian walk IS personal. My need for spiritual guidance, enrichment, forgiveness, grace…all the things…IS personal. That’s what matters.
So can one of you please pass me a tissue next time you see me at church? I always forget mine. And don’t worry, I’m ok even though I’m tearful. It is well with my soul.