So I was in church yesterday, thinking about the past week. It was tougher than I had originally anticipated. There was plenty of work to do. I missed home. I missed my Cristinas and Merediths, missed the people who can hear my voice on the other end of the phone and say, "It's been a tiring week, huh?" without ever needing me to say the words, "It's been a tiring week."
I wanted to be known again. Sometimes the city feels wonderfully intimate - there are never more than a few strands of spider-web between you and the person across from you in the sandwich line or getting in the elevator at work. But this past week the city felt anonymous, cold, and unfamiliar. Who was I, anyway? Who really knew me here? I am just another 20-something riding in and out with the tide of other ambitious 20-somethings, just another girl in a city with big hopes and a big heart. I missed being known.
And then there were those pesky thoughts about the Person who brought me here. I didn't want to talk to God about being lonely or being unknown. I certainly did not want to talk to Him about the questions I have for Him. I even MORE certainly (if that's possible) did not want to bring up the nagging, lurking, lingering questions about where I am supposed to be going to church and whether I am going to live in limbo forever or if He actually intends to lead me somewhere.
And questions like that, pesky thoughts like that, they fester. They dig into your skin and carve passageways into your heart. And suddenly the week was hard, you felt anonymous, and you are tired.
I could say the reason I didn't want to talk to God about those questions and feelings is because I just wanted to look at a person's face and hear a person's voice. I wanted comfort that was palpable and from another human being. But the truer reason is that I did not actually want Him to answer. If He did, and if He gave me the answers I thought He might give me, I would no longer be able to wallow.
I love wallowing. We all do. We love to linger in our sad moods, our uncertain moods, our difficult moods. They give us the heady sense of our depth, of how much we feel things, and how much more we understand about the trials of the world. Those bad moods shed a certain kind of light in our minds, and we like that light, and we want to keep it there as long as possible.
And so, on Sunday morning, sitting in my balcony seat, looking at the blurry faces below me (I need glasses when I get home), I was wallowing. I was prepared to feel misunderstood, misguided, and alone. And then a funny thing happened: I met God in church.
He showed up in my heart almost as if He had noticed the crowd of bad mood feelings clamouring at the door. And so casually that I barely noticed it, He pulled up a chair (I like to think of my soul as a bookstore or a coffee shop sometimes) and settled down to wait for me to sit down across from Him. I didn't want to. I knew that if I sat down, I'd have to put up the "Closed for Private Party" sign and the bad moods would have to shuffle out. But God had a surprise for me yesterday. Not only was He parked comfortably in my heart, but He also put in a phone call to my mind about Creation (I know, it's weird... but there it is).
Creation, God reminded me on Sunday, is good. That book, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert has for some reason always reminded me that Creation is good. God made it. God was pleased with it. God named it "very good." God is in the business of restoration, of re-glorifying what was once filled with glory and now only carries vestiges of its original splendor. God is intent upon the redemption of the entire world, from caterpillar to lilac to corrupt governance to the widow, the alien and the orphan... to Hilary. And though the church I go to teaches me much about sin and salvation, I don't hear much from them about Creation. I don't hear much about the original goodness. I don't hear much about God's work in the wider world, outside our individual hearts. And so God reminded me that Creation is very good.
So, in the week of being alone, in the week of being unknown, and in the week of hiding from God, I stumbled upon the reminder: eat, pray, love. Eat - enjoy the fruit of Creation. Pray - do not hide from the One who lives in your heart. He is there more often than you are. Love - acknowledge that you are so deeply loved that you cannot escape it. Acknowledge that His love expands infinitely, covers your bad moods and your reluctance and your wallowing. And then run forward, your heart newly filled with such vast, joyful, infinite love, towards Him, shedding as much love as you can on the ones you meet along the way.
Eat, and then pray, and then love, and then pray again, and then love again.