Step into the room with me. There are cushioned chairs set out in a U-shape, with a few “TV dinner style” tables set in front of them. You’ll see elderly Kathy scowling, a young 20-something Mark smiling with his bongo drums in hand, Sandra in her wheelchair, Tara with her breathing machine and a potpourri of others beginning to gather in the room. The ones who are are able, are helping themselves to lemonade and 2nd day Panera goodies. Technically, this is a part of the disability ministry, but really it’s just church. It’s the body of Christ serving and loving one another – making space for differences that don’t always fit the mold.
Those are words I wrote to many of you over a year ago…
Today was the first time in six months that I returned to the room, but no one had forgotten me! Mark’s eyes were wide, as a sheepish smile crossed his lips. Rebecca beamed with a new purple hair weave. Kathy layed her head on my shoulder, “I’ve missed you.” All these welcome back moments took place while the worship leader strummed “Oh God you are my God,” a chorus of voices sang off key, and random beats banged on tambourines, bongos, and shakers.
These people opened their hearts to Mossy and I when we were struggling to find a church home that had a space for the “interrupters.” A church that could embrace us as is, instead of struggling to “manage” undesirable behaviors. Our previous church had loved us tremendously well, but at the age of 12 Mossy had outgrown the Cry Room for young mothers and babies – the safe place to make noise.
As we became more comfortable with the church and the new friendships we were forming, I started to trust the ministry leaders who felt Mossy was ready for the Middle School Ministry on Sunday mornings. I was anxious, but they were right. He did just fine! Immersing himself into new friendships with typical peers, Mossy thrived in this high energy, fun, and educational hour. He didn’t need me and neither did the youth leaders. For the first time in three years, I went to church with a free heart.
I’ll never forget the Sunday I went to meet him at the end of Sunday School and he came out of the large room beaming. He beat his fist on his chest two times and then simultaneously looked up and pointed an arm and forefinger up at the sky. The group had acted out Bible stories and David’s group went with the whole theme of giving glory to God through this common male action made after some athletic victory. He still does that whenever he’s having a particularly cheerful spiritual moment, and we both smile.
These are my friends, and I’ve missed them. My heart was full, knowing that now I had the time to be back in this special service, and participate in the main service as well. I smiled when the worship leader raised his hand, asked, “has anyone else been sick this winter like I have?” and Charles responded, “Nope! I’ve been drinking coffee!” I never knew coffee is what kept me well!
Every Sunday, we sing “He’s got the whole world in his hands,” while tossing an inflatable globe back and forth between two friends. Mark chose a new female visitor and we sang “He’s got Mark and Cheryl in his hands, He’s got Mark and Cheryl in His hands, He’s got Mark and Cheryl in his hands, He’s got the whole world in his hands…” We kept singing and taking turns with the ball until everyone had gotten their chance. After Mark passed the ball to another friend, he walked by me with a sheepish grin on his face, nodded, and said quietly of himself, “ladies man.” I tried not to giggle.
Kathy has been more upset and scared than usual. When our time together came to a close, she offered to pray out loud. Shoulders hunched, and shuffling feet, she walked to the center of the room and bowed her head.
“Jesus we just want to thank you.” Her brow furrowed and sincere emotion filled her voice, “I just really love you and you’re with me. I love you so much.”
When I’m with these friend, I’m reminded to let life be more simple than I sometimes make it. I’m reminded there’s much to be thankful for. I’m reminded how wonderful it is to be remembered and loved.