Can I tell you about my first sanctuary?
It wasn’t in the scratchy mustard yellow pews and burgundy carpet of my church with the stained glass windows that have since been replaced. I learned how to worship there, but that’s not the first place I learned to worship. (I learned much later how to worship in coffee shops and parking lots).
I grew up in a place, in a time, where seven year olds could roam a leafy path in a forest, crossing a creek, climbing a hill, exploring a barn. I spent more afternoons and mornings and evenings watching the sky and the wind and the sun and the stars than I did the television. I didn’t call it worship, I wasn’t praying, it wasn’t purposeful. It wasn’t intentional. It was a girl, surround that by the sanctity of the ancient source that is nature. Sometimes, she was pretending to be Anne of Green Gables, or Mary Lennox or Jo March. But mostly, she was just being and she was blessed with the opportunity to do that in the midst of a place that became a sanctuary.
You know, God is ancient. And sometimes, or maybe most of the time, we need to be reminded of that. We need to be somewhere that is not ours, someplace we don’t control, surrounded by things we didn’t create. We need to be small and we need to remember how big and old God and God’s creations are. We need to be wildly out of control and okay with that, grateful with that. We need to find our faith in the movement of the leaves, the dampness of the grass, the uprooted tree that makes home for vines and small creatures. We need imperfect beauty. We need the changing constants of life cycles and seasons. We need to remember that we are part of these things.
Tonight, I stared up at the inky sky, splattered with glittering stars in constellations that I barely remember but learned a long time ago at Girl Scout camp and felt as if I and all I love was in the cup of God’s hand and there is nothing more comforting and holy than understanding that. Than understanding that in the midst of a vast and elaborate universe, I am intimately known and intensely loved. I learned that not through a Bible study or devotion or sermon. I learned it not through communion served on Sunday. I don’t know how I learned it. It was organic, like God is organic.
In the world, being small can be frustrating, scary, overwhelming. You feel out of control and overpowered. You feel maybe a little doomed. You feel anxious to produce, to procure, to keep up, to show off, to prove your worthiness, to argue your point. It’s always a battle, everyone needs armor, all the time. It’s exhausting, defeating, distracting.
But with God, in the sanctuary, whatever the sanctuary is, there is none of that. Being small is beautiful, restful, peaceful. There is nothing to do, nothing to prove. There is no need for armor, and because of that, there is joy, an intense and abiding joy that overflows out of your body and you realize that you are made of ancient things too. And it’s so much to feel, to know, that you almost feel as if your body doesn’t actually exist. Except that it does, with ferocity. And all your senses are full. Your body is your vessel that you worship from and everything is holy and everything works for the good. And you matter so much and not because you do anything extraordinary, but because you are. Being is enough. Because God is enough and you are God’s and God is yours and God is good.