Three women stand on stage, eyes closed, singing earnestly. I’m standing in the back of the darkened room, drinking water, fighting back tears. Around me an outstretched arm, hands in pockets, kneeling in prayer. A woman leans over and asks if I’m okay. “I’m fine,” I reply as a tear slips out and I scramble to wipe it away. The melodic declaration continues. I exit and allow myself to heave. Tears streams down my face. When I reach the inside of the bathroom I sob. I walk into the stall my chin quivers and I ask God why it’s so hard. Why I feel this way. As though I’ve had my feet in two places for as long as I can remember. My shoulders shake and I feel as though there must be something wrong with me. It’s me. It’s something- it’s who I am, how. At a loss and accustomed to the emotional release and how to hide it, I clean up and turn away. I walk back in and still don’t sing.
Somewhere in between downing more water and more songs the Pastor’s wife gets up to speak. I feel comforted by the fact that she too has been crying. She tells us a story of one of her worsts. After the birth of her fourth baby she snapped at her kids. But not just snapped. Sleep deprived, emotionally spent, and physically aching she awoke to her beautiful boys ages 5, 3, and 1. Clad in her bathrobe, she felt so irritated by everything they were doing. The playfulness, their arguments. It made her skin crawl, until she screamed at them. And saw Jesus in their shocked faces. She crumpled on the floor in the corner of her kitchen. She stated her second born son revealed the spirit of Jesus to her in a way only a child can. He sat down on the floor with her, holding his favorite yellow blankie. He asked her where it hurt, “and I just sobbed of course and said ‘everywhere.” Even in her broken state, she told her son that God has a yellow blanket too. And that yellow blanket is Jesus and he wraps it around the world. It feels nice to get a glimpse into that part of someone.
I hang around for a long time, trying to slip in and tell her about how much I appreciated her story wondering what shade of yellow my blanket would be. Instead, I’m approached by a woman around my age. Beautiful mousey brown hair and glasses. She reintroduces herself to me and her name sounds like a still pasture at the golden hour. She asks me frankly about my relationship with Jesus and I have a hard time putting things into words. I speak but hold back. Feeling so annoyed by my circumstance, so tired of feeling trapped. I tell her how hard it is. Her face lights up and she extends an arm to touch mine, “But it doesn’t have to be hard.” She tells me something is working inside of me. I comment that I agree and recently found comfort in the fact that I’m still searching. Still reaching. We share stories and she tells me how young I am and I laugh. In the back of my mind I wonder. She asks me three questions. The last one, I feel bad because had she asked me a year or two ago my answer would be different. “I don’t know,” I say, about the resurrection. I feel myself wanting to be different. “Well anyone can die,” she says and her voice drips into telling me about how he rose. She says she’ll pray for me and I hate myself a little but feel comfort and her words linger behind me all week.
“It doesn’t have to be hard.” On Sunday, I realize I need to go on this retreat they’ve been asking me about for weeks. I kept saying no, as though it was something I just don’t do. Secretly, I was scared at how much I wasn’t like them and I’d never been to summer camp and I just don’t do things like that and for once I finally broke through and decided to challenge myself and to go with the intention of working on vulnerability and if I don’t figure it all out, with God, maybe I’ll just stop trying.