It seemed an inconsequential decision at the time: Well, we are going to visit some churches and that guy Frank, he was nice, so why don’t we visit his church? After the service, Frank and Patsy took us out to lunch and I have no idea whether I said the words I am not interested in joining a church right now but those words were definitely in my brain.
We went back the next week because you can’t judge a church based on one week, and then we went back the week after that and that was ten years ago this month and I guess we just never stopped going. In the past ten years, Patsy let me cry on the phone and invited me to a book club and supported my dreams and photocopied articles she thought I would like to read and brought meals when Atticus was born and served on the diaconate with me. She treated me like a person who mattered at church and I have to admit that I wasn’t totally used to that. I was used to being invisible, and I had to get out of the habit of slipping in and out on Sunday mornings in that invisible way. I had to learn a new way of being.
Ten years is a long time to do anything, and I have been feeling the magnitude of that time in the past few weeks. A lot has changed for us since that Sunday when I was not interested in joining a church. Would we have gone this way without Frank and Patsy there to welcome us? I have no idea. It gives me a little bit of a panic in my chest to think of our lives depending on such a small thing, meeting these nice people and opting to see what kind of church they went to. But perhaps it goes back further than that, signing up for the internship where I met Frank, or going to graduate school, or that library assistant class in high school, or that my mom took me to the library, or that she used to go to the bookmobile when she was a kid. Or maybe Mike and I would have found our home, our place, no matter what. How far back can you trace the events that save your life?
I recently lost faith that I could possibly transform the funny and sweet and frustrating things that toddlers and teenagers have to say into anything more. Oh, a student connected with your book club and it has made a big difference? Your son is learning? Do you have anything you haven’t talked about before? And the answer is no. It’s not that nothing has been saving my life, but rather that the things that have been saving me seem too mundane for words. That is, of course, why I started writing them down. But in February the weather is cold and the fevers are high and the darkness is long and the tempers are short.
To add to that sadness, Frank and Patsy are moving away. I am grateful in a way, because it forced me to think about what they mean to us. When we said goodbye at church yesterday, I tried to thank them. But how do you thank people who changed your life for the better just by being who they are? I confess I do not have the words.