I went to church alone today.
My husband has an occasional morning of work, and this was one of them, so I needed to find a ride. I hate asking for rides. It takes me back to freshman year and the loneliness of looking out my dorm room window, watching local girls cruise around campus with the top down on their convertibles.
An email came yesterday afternoon: "Just checking in!" she wrote, but I knew it was capitol-P Providence. She picked me up and we chatted about what it's like to put down roots in a state that didn't root you to the world. A New York girl, a Missouri girl, driving to an oceanside church with soup for 70 sloshing around in the trunk.
Our first reading was from Micah 6, a passage I remember because my middle school choir teacher, Miss Bird or Birch or something with a B set it to music and played it during chapel on her turquoise guitar. She was the teacher that most kids made fun of, but 12 years later, I know this verse because of her-because her tune stuck with me:
He has shown you, oh man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To walk justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with your God.
My mind wanders away from the next reading in Matthew, away from the homily about peacemaking, and onto humility. What does it mean to walk humbly with my God?
And during church, this is what I write:
Humility begins with humanity. Can we admit, can we accept, our own membership in the human race? We may be cognitively aware that we "fit in" as a member of society, but do we acknowledge the reality inwardly? When we make choices that affect our community negatively, our first reflex is to bristle against criticism:
"I have my reasons."
"It's my life."
"If you could just see things from my perspective."
True humility is an admission that we belong to one another; that the things which hurt the heart of my brother, hurt me, too. Humility does not wait to be understood or cared for in order to act. It does not hear the evidence like a judge, withholding a final verdict on a person's character until the burden of proof has been fulfilled.
Humility does not take others to trial.
It acknowledges that we all come from the same source, the same ground, the same dust. And we share more than DNA and dirt in the human family. We share a great need-a primal hunger to belong somewhere, with someone. And greater still, we share woundedness.
The earliest points of reference for our wounds are different-for some of us, it came much too early, in the heat of playground drama or locker room teasing. For some of us, our first wounds came from the hands of those who should have shown us protection and love. For others, we offered ourselves-our love-up as a gift, and rejection pierced our offering. The circumstances are not the same, but all of us have sustained a wound.
While I acknowledge my wounds, I struggle not to walk out the destiny of a victim. Humility gently reminds me, "You are not the only one hurting here." Sure, I love the idea of a fabric of people woven together into one grand tapestry, but in this sense, I cringe at our connectedness. I want my pain to be unique; I want my brokenness to make me special. And yes, the scars I bear will never be found on another's skin. But once I rescind my "specialness", I cannot overlook the wounds of my brothers and sisters.
Once I see the wound of someone next to me, I cannot overlook a terrifying possibility: that in my woundedness, I have wounded others.
That is all I have time to write, before piano music begins and its time to receive communion. I look carefully at the chunk of ciabatta bread, twirling it in my fingers. Sometimes it fills me with joy to partake, but today I'm not so sure why it took the blood of Jesus, an Innocent man, to set me free.
After brunch, a different friend gives me a ride home, and I can't believe the conversation we have about marriage-the things she says that make my eyes open wide in recognition. It's amazing how fast shame will flee the scene of a transparent and compassionate conversation.
In her honesty, she is showing me her wounds, but she is not asking me to heal them.
She is years ahead of me, and her scars are my mile markers.
They are a sign of hope.