So I find myself watchfully wondering about the condition of my soul. Not “soul” as in the goal some make of eternal existence, but “soul” as in the essence of who I was, who I am, and who I will forever be. That is my witness.
Soul … Self. How are you tonight? I have vowed to keep watch with you, and I have invited words to provide me company as I do. One word in particular: big.
“Big” is the first word I can remember associating with God.
I was four years old, sitting near the top of the 15- to 20-some concrete front steps of the church of my childhood on a beautiful, fall Sunday morning. Sunday school had ended, and I was waiting for my parents to either join me in attending worship or to come take me home. Normally I waited inside the church, just inside the main doors at the back of the sanctuary. On days my parents came to church with me, that was the door they entered, so meeting them there was efficient - not a word I would have used at four years of age, but a concept I understood well.
However, my parents had begun to not join me at church – to just pick me up instead. Their pattern had become consistently inconsistent, so sitting on the front steps of the church had become more efficient once the worship service had begun and the congregation was singing its first hymn. Robust organ music with melodic vocalization was my cue. It signaled that the time was now past my parents’ comfort level for a late arrival to worship. It was time to move my from waiting inside to waiting outside on the steps.
If I sat on the concrete steps, the ushers wouldn’t see either my father or my mother – whomever was picking me up – dressed in non-church clothes and looking a tiny bit uncomfortable about their intentional non-attendance. I waited on the steps to spare my parents – and me – such an embarrassment.
It also helped with another embarrassment. My outdoor waiting spot made it impossible for the ushers to see tension on the face of the parent who had come to collect me. That tension told me my parents had been arguing about something at home in the previous hour. I assumed it told the ushers that as well. While I had been experiencing the holy mysteries of the Sunday school hour, they had – evidently – been experiencing a holy war.
I witnessed a great deal while watchfully waiting.
While sitting on those steps, minutes masqueraded as hours. The pulsing of our church’s massive pipe organ was the only thing that kept a beat consistent with human time; for my heart, my mind, the impulses of my little girl spirit were on divine time, taking in the holiness of a Sunday morning. Me and God sitting on the concrete steps, waiting.
I was being a big girl.
I was being held close by a big God.
A God big enough to be fully present and to feel as real as I was. Big enough to wonder with me about what else was real in the world. Big enough to be a topic my parents would argue about.
Should our family worship at the Methodist church like my father’s family had done when he was growing up? A church similar to the one whose steps I sat on. Or should our family worship across the street at the Lutheran church like my mother’s family had done when she was growing up? The congregation where I had been baptized only four years earlier.
God certainly was big.
Big enough to turn faith into fighting.
Big enough to be felt in the heart of a girl sitting in solitude one Sunday morning, actually, a series of Sunday mornings.
My soul waited for the Lord, while my self waited for a parent. Neither my soul, nor my self, were ever disappointed.
I am on new steps today. And as I wait, I know I am not alone.
That’s big stuff. Soulful stuff.
And I thank God for it.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. – Psalm 130:5-6.