"May I take a picture?" I asked my pastor, having walked to the front of the sanctuary and into the anterior room that contained the piano. A pale purple flower and a few woody stems emerged from the basket of flowers atop the instrument and the sunlight made the cloth petals translucent.
"I noticed it during the sermon," I continued when he cocked his head in confusion. "And I wanted to remember it," I explained, omitting the mention of my blog. He waved his hand in invitation and asked if I wanted to move the basket. I shook my head and snapped the picture, smiling at the horses that milled around the snowy yard outside. My church is quite charming, even in one of my miserable moods.
I had decided I wasn't going when I woke at 4:30AM. I was irritable and sad and felt heavy somehow. And when I'm like that, I sleep or wish I was sleeping. And church would get in the way of the former and be pointless in light of the latter.
Why, I decided when I woke again around 8:30, do I choose to be unhappy and unsettled? So I sighed at myself and made a face and asked Chienne if she wanted to go for a walk. She did, of course, so I bundled up and followed her down the sidewalk and onto the path by the woods. We returned home and I demanded the momentum continue, pulling on dressy clothes with ill-tempered tugs. I deliberately wore black socks with brown shoes and dared anyone to mention it. And I set off to the pretty building surrounded by snow.
I smiled when I opened the bulletin, noting the title of the sermon, 'Is Suffering Necessary?' While God can be subtle, He isn't always. So I settled and breathed and prayed for focus and peace and direction. And while it wasn't completely successful, I did manage to listen and sing and pray. And when I would lose track of worship - trip over regret or rejection or sadness or impatience - I would look at the flower atop the piano. I would ease my thoughts away from how I'm not in love and I hate parts of my job and I worry about family struggles and would instead admire the way the sun streamed through the window panes below the lacy curtains. How the flower looked so fragile but hopeful there in the bright white light.
I agree that suffering is better described by 'unavoidable' than 'necessary.' That when faced with such a thing, it does seem wise to note the lessons learned - be they obedience, character, compassion, understanding. That trials have the potential to make one stronger or better. But I tired of the stories - bad things happen to good people. Do we really need to detail person after person, struggle after struggle? I'm suffering right now! Point taken! Concept clear!
"God knows of your suffering," the pastor interrupted my silent ranting. "He did not cause it and does not want it. He loves you and suffers with you." And I blinked a few times and looked down at the hymnal I'd hugged to my chest, saying a quiet prayer of thanks for that moment - a peaceful rest from the heaviness.
I'm still moody - my sighs this morning at church were much like the ones I huffed in Doug's direction as we watched a movie last night. "I don't know!" I finally said when he asked what building that was and rewound the film three times. "And I don't really care!" He smiled and apologized and I thought about elbowing him in the side but restrained myself. It's not his fault I'm partially evil.
For today, I feel like I chose the goodness in my soul though - consciously directed myself toward light rather than darkness. So when the pastor, after watching me take a photo of a flower, asked if I wanted to join the congregation and be part of their family, I turned to him and nodded.
"I would like that very much," I replied.