It smelled clean – cologne and clorox – and the adolescent pheromones ran high. Our carpet echoed our Sister Church in burgundy bold. The chairs interlocked and faced the altar where wide steps landed on a deep stage with room for the most important ones. We stared at the plexiglass protecting the bathtub under a comically tall, thin gold cross. We sang hymns projected on the screens between house-made graphics of giant hands and mountains and rays of sun through clouds. I preferred the hymnal and bobbed my eyes to the notes as we sang mostly on key to majestic piano chords.
Home. I felt so at home.
I didn’t know what would come. I spent years unaware of the approaching deconstruction – how meeting the boy would send my sure vessel into a tailspin. I just sang, teary eyed, words older than the walls I threw my voice against.
Even now I could cry. I miss it sometimes. Not the rules, not the fear, not the damage it did to my relationships. But I miss the smell. I miss hearing the untrained voices of people just as earnestly hoping that God would hear them as I was. I miss knowing that building like a docent at a museum; being allowed in the kitchen. I miss knowing I belonged to these people – being in.
I do not miss the skirts.
I had no appreciation for the simplicity of that time. I had only just begun being scared, I didn’t know how far it could go. I sang in simple soprano words that would come back to taunt me years in the future. They were still just words then, and I loved when we sang “Jesus.”
Plenty of my time there passed under the humid haze of teenage crushes and youth group drama, but my heart never wavered in it’s desperate hunt for the Divine. Every time my closed-toed shoes passed over the threshold of the building I sought true sanctuary – and I usually found it. It wore a lot of make up and kept it’s hair high. It underlined it’s Bible verses and marked the sermon date. It bought me pizza and watched The Princess Bride. It told me secrets in hushed tones over a fold out table. I held communion without wine (or juice) every Tuesday night over french fries among brothers and sisters in more than The Faith. We were kin over awkward and searching and hope.
I am grateful for so much now. I’m grateful for freedom and for pants. I’m grateful to have met the boy. And I am grateful for the clean smelling memories in that place and for the years I spent in arrogant unknowing, singing words I won’t forget.