Welcome back! Grab a comfy place to relax, a cuppa something and read on about the adventure!
When I was about three, Mom and dad transferred their membership from the Lutheran Church way in town to the new one, two blocks from our home in a brand new subdivision. I remember us being there as a family exactly two times: once to actually join the church, and one other time at a communion service. My brother and I were sent to Sunday School every week by ourselves for years. I think I may have attended a regular church service about twice on my own after Sunday School when I was in Junior High school. Unfortunately, I had no one to guide me through the complicated liturgy, so I gave up on understanding it and didn’t return to church.
Still, I was always drawn to the mystery that was God, like the proverbial moth to a flame. What I didn’t recognize in those early beginnings was that I longed to know Him, and intuitively, I longed to show reverence to Him.
Later, as I grew up and was able to read and comprehend more and more, I became intrigued with liturgy, readings, and King James English. I used to read through the liturgies at the back of the ancient (1925) black hymnal and service book we had in the bookcase at home. The church year calendar and its seasonal colors intrigued me. The readings, the prayers, the confessions and responses mesmerized me. In my heart, I knew that I needed these prayers myself. The shaped notes of the chanted responses puzzled me. I also was drawn to the old black King James version of the Bible. The Thees and Thous and archaic language had a mysterious quality to them that made me want to know more. They made me feel ‘different’ in some way; different from the mysterious God who was so holy and unreachable, and different from so many of the people around me who seemed to ignore that there even was a God, unless it was during an actual Sunday church service.
When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I remember seeing two Lutheran nuns at our church’s craft sale. I was intrigued by their navy blue habits, and was drawn to their twinkling eyes set in round faces that shone with joy. Being quite shy, I never dared speak to them. The two sisters were probably in their 60’s, and I somehow got the impression that only old women could be nuns and be that dedicated to loving and serving God. They heightened my sense of mystery surrounding real worship. I was also surprised by two things: first, that they weren’t Catholic, and second, that they let them out of the convent, driving a car! For awhile, I daydreamed to myself about becoming a nun someday. But that wasn’t anything I ever shared with anyone. My parents obviously weren’t very religious, and I felt foolish for even thinking about it, so I never shared it with even a Sunday School teacher.
Other things I remember are the blonde oak pews, the stained glass windows, candles, flowers and the carvings on the front of the altar table. I remember the communion rail and the organ and the ornate brick wall at the front of the sanctuary. The colors of the pastor’s vestments always caught my eye, and at the same time the vestments made him feel a bit unapproachable to me. It all added to the mystery of God in my young eyes and heart.
While I didn’t continue in the Lutheran church as I got older, that sense of longing for beauty, for mystery, for reverence always stayed with me. Occasionally the beauty found me, but by and large the reverence eluded me. Today, I’m free to experience beauty in a service and also have the freedom to express reverence in lots of tangible and physical ways.
What about you? Is there a longing in your heart to know Him? To experience His beauty? To touch that mystery? Do you feel Him in the sunshine, see Him in the blue skies, hear Him in the birds’ songs? Do you experience Him in art? Even if your particular denomination doesn’t seem to have many outward signs of deep reverence, you can certainly cultivate it in your personal prayer times. Light a candle. Get on your knees. Fall on your face, even. Lift your hands to Him in surrender. Use a prayer book to give you some fresh language in prayer. I think you’ll find that for every small step you take toward God, He will take a giant step closer to you. As you seek Him with humility and faith, He will let Himself be found in delightful ways. Go ahead – discover the mystery!