On Sunday I went to a church service for the first time in two years.
My wallet was stolen the night before and in the morning I woke up to news of the mass shooting in Orlando. I was raw. I was broken. And I had my first Sunday off in months.
So I walked to church, making sure to be five minutes late so I could sit down in the back and be anonymous.
I thought I might splinter into a million pieces.
The air seemed heavy, like an August day in Cajun territory, even though a crisp Pacific Northwest wind was blowing through and I knew it couldn’t possibly be as stifling as it seemed.
I held a lyric sheet, but I already knew all the words to all the songs.
I tried not to analyze the lyrics. I tried not to pick at the theology.
I let sorrow fill up my eyes. I let longing get caught up in my throat. I let my voice crack on the high parts of an old hymn’s chorus.
I tried to be both alone and with this community.
I put on my best, “I am comfortable alone. You do not need to introduce yourself” face.
Again, I failed.
The woman in front of me recognized me from the last time I visited and we chatted with her daughter about my alma mater where she is studying computer science and Spanish and knows all my favorite hiking trails.
A silver-haired beauty sidled up from two rows over and we laughed about wearing the exact same turquoise tie-dyed skirt to church.
The pastor called me by my nickname and asked how things were going with the opening of my café.
I pushed back the tears that were threatening to expose me.
I pushed back my desire to bolt for the door.
I passed the peace of Christ.
The guest speaker talked about the beauty of doubt. He repeated a phrase I have heard a million times without hearing it.
“Help my unbelief.”
I whispered it a dozen times.
The prayer requests broke my resolve to not cry. The first prayer was for the families and victims in Orlando. The last one for the LGBTQ community in my city.
At the end of the service my neighbor came over for a hug.
I felt anxious but I also felt safe.
I do not know where to go from here, but I am carrying with me The Doubter’s Plea:
“Yes, I believe.
And Yes, I doubt.
This is where I am.
This is where I am and I can’t be anywhere else right now.
Help me through it, in it, in spite of it. But help me.”