|You don't know it yet, but these are my angels.|
This past Sunday I was deprived of my usual afternoon delights. Normally I take to the deck or the couch with a stack of soul-nourishing books, escaping for hours into a beautiful, poetic, thoughtful world. That little weekly vacation is anticipated all week and prepares me well for the next one. I am dedicated to this Sabbath rest and loathe to give it up.
But I am also committed to being the chair of the hospitality committee at our church. This position means that I'm in charge of any dinners we have. I'm happy to serve in this way. I've long wanted to feel capable of it, and it's a pleasure to relieve a dear friend who served in this capacity for twenty years. But when they fall on Sunday evenings, shortening my precious afternoon idyll, I feel just a little resistance, despite my spiritual willingness.
So it was with a little reluctance that I came home and cooked a dish instead of reading blissfully, and then returned to the church for activity instead of remaining home for blessed idleness. Three gifts made it all worth while.
First, IT RAINED! Holy relief! After a month or so of drought, it finally rained and good. Even though the road was blocked by a downed tree and electrical line, causing us to turn around and find an alternate route and arrive later than planned--even though my new suede sandals got wet--even though the church basement sprang a leak that electrically endangered my burger-frying husband and caused us to lay down a path of towels to avoid slipping on the wet tile--yes, despite all that, I was deeply grateful for the shower. The thirsty earth needed a drink, and I rejoiced at its slaking.
Second, I was as moved as usual by the deacon ordination ceremony that my church puts on. It's a simple affair, with brief faith stories shared, a few songs sung, and a laying on of hands, which is my favorite part that always causes me tears. Those who have never served as deacons before and are therefore being ordained or blessed by the congregation seat themselves in chairs. All members who wish to do so step behind them, lay hands upon their shoulders, and whisper whatever prayer or words of encouragement they wish to offer. Having been the recipient of such a shower of affirmation, I can tell you that it's a huge blessing requiring a hanky. I am always moved both by remembering what it's like to receive this different kind of shower and by feeling privileged to give it to others.
By this point, having fed people successfully and experienced an emotional blessing, I was already feeling richly repaid for leaving my cave of self nurturance. Then came my third reward.
The college concert choir often uses our sanctuary for rehearsals and performances, both because the room has very good acoustic qualities and because the college choir director is also our church choir director (We are so lucky!) who knows about the sound gift. As it happens, they were practicing that very night for the World Choir Games. (Who knew there was an Olympics for choirs?) They invited us to come up after our service to be their practice audience. Of course, most of us said yes. I certainly did. I've been to these concerts before. They are not to be missed, even if it was running up against my equally sacred bedtime schedule.
From the moment they began singing, I was utterly transported. It was angelic music, the kind of crafted singing that always makes me feel that I should go live a life full of things as beautiful as that music every day and never settle for less. Sitting there rapt in their gorgeous sounds, I wished that kind of life for every one of them, too, these young souls giving their swaying all to deliver the melodies. There really should be a world where soul moving singing is rewarded as well as paper pushing. That's my idea of heaven on earth.
When they were done, applause did not do it justice for me. I ran up to the stage and did what felt right: I got down on my knees and bowed my thanks. A gift of beauty like that merits prostration from joy and gratitude, and I shamelessly offered it.
Oh, but I almost forgot. It wasn't over yet. On the drive home, we were treated to a beautiful sunset whose glorious pink was reflected in the wet asphalt so seamlessly that it seemed we were driving on the sunset itself. Were I fully the person I want to be, I would have snapped a humble cell phone picture of that wonder, too.
Obviously I was not a bit sorry at the end of all these blessings that I had "served" instead of putting myself first. In truth I was triply rewarded for my little bit of giving, so much so that it felt like no sacrifice at all. Following my callings always pays off. Sometimes like an instant win in the Big Love lottery.