Lorelle and I, having decided that at twenty-eight we are much too old to stand for an entire concert with all the merely twenty-seven-year-old-General-Admissioners, settle into our mezzanine seats feeling exceptionally pleased with ourselves. Seats or no seats, my body moves instinctively as the music begins, shimmying and shaking between the armrests. It is familiar – this place, with this friend, and these feel-good melodies of Ben Rector, and my body knows it.
By the end of the show the man in front of us can no longer contain himself, and he bursts from his seat in all his suit-jacket-and-hoop-earrings glory, jumping and shaking, hands in the air, waving like he just doesn’t care. You go, man. You go.
After six hours of driving my body is clamoring for some freedom and movement as I pull into the parking lot of my parent’s church – until recently, my church. This, too, is familiar.
I eat Wednesday night dinner with people who have known me from birth. I can’t believe how frail and fragile some of them are, these saints of my church.
Downstairs before the adult ed class, my elementary school principal spies a hula-hoop and wants to see if she can still do it. She can’t. But her laugh is as childlike and strong as ever. We sing “My friends may you grow in grace,” and my heart cracks a bit listening to the once strong, now warbly tenor of Mr. Witvoet.
I notice, as we sit in the circle, that mum’s foot moves in a constant circle when her legs are crossed, just like mine does.
Mum, Jovita and I go to an indoor waterpark, because why not? I sit in the tube waiting for the “go” signal and laugh at my slightly-racing heart. But oh, the delight of it! Whooshing around bends, the certainty of impending doom as the tube flies up one side, then another before suddenly dropping so my heart is lifted from my chest. I am belly-laughing with glee as I hurtle into the pool below.
We go to dinner with mum’s sisters, my Opa, and two cousins. A whole gaggle of de Jong ladies, loud and boisterous and laughing. It’s been a while since I’ve seen some of them. Their lives, in some ways, are remarkably different from each other’s and from mine. Yet I see myself so clearly in their high cheek bones, crinkled eyes and wide, slightly mischievous grins.
It’s confirmed at the end of dinner: every one of them moves their feet in a constant circle when their legs are crossed.
I – who do not usually enjoy slaving over food – am slaving over a risotto. Risotto is the most monotonous of foods. Pour broth. Stir. Wait. Pour broth. Stir. Wait. Only pride could keep me in front of this stove, for I made risotto once for my family and now it’s apparently “my dish.”
I’m hot and sweaty, and the bowl of broth doesn’t seem to be diminishing. Alright, so maybe love keeps me going too, because Dad and Michael are about to arrive home, Dad from a week of camping with his youngest brother, Michael from a conference in Toronto, and I do genuinely want to create a delicious meal in honor of our togetherness.
The risotto is finished ten minutes before they walk through the door, grumbling of Toronto traffic and cold – such cold – in Algonquin park. We immediately sit to eat, falling into the chairs and routines we’ve inhabited since childhood.
The risotto is warm, and, if I do say so myself, pretty darn delicious.
I’m behind the pulpit at my parent’s – once my – church. New faces, familiar faces, white faces, black faces, young faces, old faces. I make a quip about John MacArthur, and the glee I’ve felt all week that I would be “going home” for the express reason that I’d been asked to preach. (I’m glad it’s water off Beth Moore’s back. I’m not feeling quite so gracious.) “Thank you,” I tell these saints, “for believing the Word of God is spoken by female voices too.” Someone in the front row silently applauds. A woman in the far section wipes her eyes. I wonder what their stories are.
I’m crammed in between a pole and a person on the subway heading west out of Toronto. As only a rare rider of subways, I have the luxury of loving them. The crush of people with their earphones and books and bags and – yes, that is in fact a Labrador – all thrown together for this moment in time. I take them in – their large noses and dark eyes and pink hair and large freckles and wispy eyebrows.
I wonder what stories they inhabit. What are their meals that celebrate togetherness? Who are the people they look like? Where are the places that are home, and not home, and used-to-be-home? What music is streaming through their earphones, and are any of them fighting the urge to dance?
Tomorrow I will drive those six hours in reverse, back to my home/not home. There’s a sermon to be written yet, for the people who are the saints of this, my-now-church, with their warbly voices and childlike laughs. A sermon on Moses, and how he got to glimpse the glory of God, and how we get to glimpse the glory of God in these bodies of ours.
And particularly, how we glimpse the glory of God in God-incarnated, God-made-familiar, God-at-home-with-us, God-embodied, the Christ.
And I wonder, as I sit crammed between a pole and a person, whether Jesus would have loved waterslides and risotto. And if he would have danced to Ben Rector or, perhaps, Kanye. And if he’d be that guy on the subway awkwardly gazing at everyone, taking them all in. And if he ever noticed Mary moving her foot just the way he did.
And would he sing a doxology in a circle of beautiful old saints with a tiny crack in his heart that vanishes in a second because he knows – he knows – that the story we inhabit is one where the body is resurrected, and the voices are made strong, and the season of singing and dancing and feasting will never end, and we will be home?