God is in the bathroom

Some people think God is in the details,
but I have come to believe that God is in the bathroom. -Anne Lamott

Last Wednesday I was at church, and I got a little nervous about the meeting I was going to (I had never been to Wednesday night meetings before), so I ducked into the bathroom and prayed. While I was there, I thought about how many times over the years I have prayed in church bathrooms, and I thought about the quote above, and I laughed. Well, I laughed in my head, at least, because I didn’t want to suddenly become “the crazy lady laughing in the next stall.”

I think the church bathroom is a good place to pray because bathrooms are usually cool (temperature-wise), there’s a place to sit down, you get privacy, and you can stay there as long as you want. And there’s toilet paper if you feel the need to cry. Our old church had really cold bathrooms, which aren’t great when it means cold toilet seats on a January morning, but are nice when you’ve let stress make you feel overheated. Our current church has two different bathrooms that I alternate between – one with lots of stalls that’s more public (when you don’t want to wallow) and one that’s behind the fellowship hall that has a rockin’ mirror that makes me look tall. (In fact, I am not the only one who uses that bathroom just for the mirror. I often find a crowd in there on Sunday mornings, just admiring.)

Besides all those practical reasons, I find church bathrooms to be one of the best places to pray because they make me stop for a minute and breathe. I sit down and breathe in the cool air and lean over until I can feel my heart pounding against my legs. I pray in the church bathroom because, despite how crazy it sounds, I have found God’s peace there too many times to ignore it. Away from the hustle and bustle of Sunday School and crowded hallways and friendly greetings (which are all good things), I find the silence I sometimes need to work out the things that God is stirring up in me, or to calm the things I’m allowing circumstances to stir up, or just snatch a minute to myself to prepare my heart for worship.

Last week I made a quick dash into the upstairs bathroom, the more public one, because I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and just needed a quick moment of prayer to myself. I sat in the stall, my eyes following the patterns of the tiles on the floor, and I thought, “I have been doing this a long time.” And that gave me courage to go to this meeting, despite the fact that it was new and I’d never done anything like it before.

I feel like I’ve been praying in church bathrooms my whole life. I remember doing it from the time I was very small, when I would lean over and look down at my shiny Mary Janes and ask God for whatever the big thing was in my life at the time. “Bless my family,” or, “Please let my daddy get better,” or, “Let mommy not worry about money.” And I would thank God for listening, because I knew he came everywhere with me, even if the bathroom wasn’t where you’d imagine that he might want to hang out. Even when my faith has been at its most strained and I wasn’t sure it would survive, I’d step into a bathroom and the very act of being there would make me breathe and pray, even if I was just saying, “Help,” and not really expecting an answer. Until last week, I had never thought about how much I depended on those moments in the stall by myself. Or not by myself, since God was there, in the women’s restroom, with me.

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