Tonight, I went with my mom and my sister to participate in what is called "Holy Hour", which is part of the De Colores weekend my father is participating in.
It was a bit awkward at first, because this is the first time in a very long time...years, really...that I have gone to anything of this nature. It reminded me very much of the type of church services I attended as a teenager, and smacked of "family camp" nostalgia. In fact, the atmosphere was so reminscient of that time in my life, I nearly forgot it was only early in the month of April, and half expected to see people fanning themselves with church bulletins in futile efforts to stay cool in the stifling heat of the crowded tabernacle, broiling under the late July sun.
It was so different from anything I've seen in awhile...In the church I go to now, the worship is very organized, very precise, every note in tune with every other note, songs rehearsed until every melody and harmony is woven together perfectly. This is what I have become accustomed to. Tonight, though, the instruments consisted of acoustic guitars, the vocalists were probably not among the best, but among the willing, and there were numerous fumblings as the worship portion of the service got under way. And yet, everything seemed just as it should be.
Shortly after the singers began singing, many people in the congregated group of believers intertwined arms and began swaying....rows and rows of people, linked together by a familiarity with perfect strangers I haven't felt in years, swaying to the awkward rhythm put forth by the unrehearsed worship team. I vaguely recall those days, when I could feel that sense of family with another person simply because they were a fellow believer, and it did not matter that I had never met them before and knew little about them. I witnessed that familiarity tonight, but could not cross the threshhold into knowing. I touched no one, and no one touched me.
I am a bit ashamed to say, I even looked at my sister and laughed a little bit. I am constantly amazed by my own capacity for shallowness at times, and how quickly and easily mockery comes to me. With very little effort, I can make fun of people all day long.
Because I did not know any of the songs, I began my usual practice of people watching. I noticed that, a few rows ahead of me, there was a woman I used to work with back in the glorious days of the gas station. I was very surprised to see her there, because when I knew her, she was anything but a Christian. As I looked at her and considered this, one word popped into my head: Redemption.
And it seemed that, for the first time, I saw her struggles for what they were. I saw how broken she had been, how desperately she had been looking for love and validation, and looking in all the wrong places. I saw her pain. And I saw how God had taken her, put her back together, and used everything in her life for His purposes.
God is so awesome.
I also saw a woman from my current place of employment. She is a social worker five days a week, a pastor's wife always. Afterward, I spoke with her briefly. She asked me if I had ever been to a De Colores weekend. I told her I had not, but that I had been to a Chrysalis weekend when I was teenager. She was familiar with it. She said that the Emmaus walks and Chrysalis weekends tend to be strictly Protestant, while the De Colores weekends involve all sects of Christianity. She said it is such a blessing to speak to people of other "faiths", and learn from them. I thought this was very fitting, in light of some dialog exchanged on the other blog I participate in. We can all learn so much from each other. I do not have to agree with every tenet of faith offered by my Catholic brothers and sisters, nor do they have to agree with all aspects of my faith, but we can certainly learn from each other.
I also made a point of talking to Gas Station Girl afterward. She told me that she got married about five years ago, that she and her husband are very involved in their church, that he is a good, Godly man, and God has really blessed her. She shared with me that she had been on a De Colores weekend, and that it was a time of "letting go". I told her she seemed to have moved on from the place she was in when I knew her. She got a very somber look on her face, one that you would wear when you fully realize where you've been and know where you are, and she simply said, "Yes." I told her I was so happy for her. And I am.
Jesus is amazingly, awesomely, almost unbelievably gracious to us poor saps, isn't He? We do so much to totally screw up our lives, yet when we let Him, He takes even our biggest screw ups, and turns them into something wonderful. Gas Station Girl is a testament of beauty for ashes.
That Girl is learning what that means.