Guest Post by Heather Miller
On September 6 2014 I married Liam and in my vows to him I promised, “To weave my life with yours so that we can be both two and one, and like a blanket giving warmth to those we love.” As the weather gets colder I find myself cherishing my blankets (and the one I share them with) more and more. I also find myself reflecting on the last year and feeling very rich as I remember moments in which I was “blanketed” by the body of Christ. It is this kind of blanket, giving this kind of warmth that I was thinking of when I wrote my vows.
The year I look back on is one that is bursting at the seams. We were watching a movie last night in which a character gets stuck trying on a rather small dress. That’s what it seems like to me, looking back…that sound of threads being stretched beyond what is natural, that feeling of your arms above your head, face hidden in red fabric, disoriented, and all senses rendered silly, that sinking feeling in your heart of I-can’t-get-out and yes-I-just-tore-this-dress and how-could-I-get-it-on-and-now-not-get-it-off. It was a huge year, so much happened, and I found myself just needing to get that dress off. But in this bursting-at-the-seams year I have glimpsed the sacred and holy body of Christ in loving action, I have witnessed the priesthood of all believers ministering with such compassion of heart, I have felt the embrace of the family of God, brothers and sisters coming to comfort, in strength and wisdom.
I have stood in a surf club surrounded by a new and still relatively unfamiliar church family, singing about the God of angel armies, “I know the one who goes before me / I know who stands behind” feeling utterly broken and trapped and alone. I felt the anxious weight of the week ahead compressing my spirit, I felt the shock of my despairing emptiness, the rawness. In this washing-machine experience of new job, new church, new fiancé…I ended up in the bathrooms with a new friend who embraced me in a hugging prayer, literally holding me in a tight hug and praying over me. The body of Christ has wet mascara on her jumper because she holds the teary ones close.
I have walked into staff devotions at the Christian school where I worked, late, held together by barely a thread, ready any moment to unravel into a prostrate pile of yarn on the floor. I have walked in and seen sunflowers at the front. The teacher who’s speaking, she doesn’t know me. She doesn’t know that sunflowers are my flowers, or that I am in a whole new world of hurt today, tender and raw and bruised. She doesn’t know that when she starts to sing Heart of Worship a capella I feel as if the Lord’s hands are plunged into my very heart. But maybe she might notice how my face is overtaken by a waterfall, how deeply vulnerable I look, how it is absolutely humanly impossible to stop the rush of tears because that’s what it’s like when God’s hands are immersed in your very hurting heart. The body of Christ sometimes doesn’t even know when it is ministering, the love of Jesus simply overflows and oh how we hope people get caught in the torrent.
I have walked into my old church, my beloved community, and listened to a message about how jacaranda trees die when they are planted in the wrong place, but of how they flourish in the right soil, the right environment. I have had a friend I haven’t seen in weeks rush over to me to hug me and ask how I am and I have melted in the familiar love of this friend. She has led me closer to the altar and she has gathered my sisters around me and I can’t stop crying aa they lay hands on me, like old days, and they pray, they pray with passion, wisdom, reassurance, affirmation. This is a safe place to break…years of trust, of laughter, of praying like this has made it safe. The body of Christ is a present, faithful, and dear friend.
This is what I hope you encounter. Priestesses and priests who are available, overjoyed to be interrupted, ever ready to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. We will be very imperfect, but we will try to love you. I hope you see your tears mirrored in our own eyes, I hope you find sympathetic criers amongst us (my own little Psych reference).
This is what we hope for, what we hope to be. A holy priesthood, filled with the Spirit, equipped with wisdom, and skilled in gentleness, ready to minister to the needs of anyone and everyone.
I hear the voices of the anxious and the weary rise up, longing for a response, a “me too” and a “you are not alone”. I want to call out to the overwhelmed and the afraid with the healing love of Christ. I don’t have answers, all I know is Jesus wept.
Is it hard? Are you weary or anxious?
You are not alone.