Sunday, August 26, 2012

My poetry: "What I didn't realize would be hard to lose"

When I knew that it was time to leave,
that the courage and patience sown in me
had grown the tallest height it could --
when I closed one church door behind me for the last time,
and opened another for the next two years,
I was prepared to grieve.

I was prepared to miss the kids,
the ones I've seen born and baptized,
the elementary-school girls now in confirmation,
the college kids trickling back on summer vacation.

I was prepared to miss the adults,
the fifty-year members, the brand-new guests,
the nods during my sermons, the hugs during coffee hour,
the begged volunteers on their knees on the Sunday School carpet
getting covered in glitter and glue.

I was prepared to feel for days and weeks and months
the stretch and pull of being in a new place,
surrounded by new people, by needs and wants I don't yet know,
by implicit expectations to tease out anew.

I was prepared to miss the circle of communion,
the people surrounding the altar in turns,
shoes shuffling, toddlers squirming,
pastor and assistant moving patiently from outstretched hand to hand,
"The body of Christ, given for you,"
as we all stood face-to-face with the body we've been made into.

I was prepared to -- as I did today --
have moments when my chest closed up,
my knuckles whitening around the steering wheel,
whining words tripping on my lips,
ready to turn and run.

I was prepared to -- as I did today --
breathe through the panic and walk inside.

I was prepared for all this; at least,
prepared in the sense that
I recognized it was coming, and wept for it.

I did not prepare myself at all for what made me weep today.

I did not realize how I would long for our worship itself:
for the heavy accented French epistles,
for the psalms, for the lectionary cycle tying us
to readings and to thousands of other readers.
I did not know I would miss the creed.

I did not realize how I would ache for wooden pews and yellow walls,
for green banners draped on the arms of the cross.

I did not realize how my heart would pound with pleas
for the slowness of our hymns,
for the pace we took up as a rhythm with our own souls
when the piano dropped out, and all there was to hear
were our voices, heavy and strong,
pulling out strings of long-known notes.

I did not know how my fingers would ache
for the cool water in our blue baptismal font,
always present, always filled.

I did not know how well we knew to worship,
how the beauty of the place we were together
trickled in the doors and flooded our prayers,
how our history and tradition made us serious
and yet made the yoke so light.

I did not know that this is what I'd miss.