I have had the most fantastic weekend, away from home. Walking gingerly into the Chapel, the Chaplain, a fellow pilgrim to Taize, ran to greet me, and flung his arms around me. After that, a steady succession of people I know from my life there, came and sat in the pews. We welcomed, and sat alongside each other, and asked how things were – and then – how things really were – and no one shrunk away from the answers. Life hasn’t been especially easy of late for anyone. Yet here we all were again – back together. Hugs, in spite of the rubbish, are powerful.
So we talked – and prayed together – entering back into a readily familiar pattern of worship. And I sunk into that liturgy, reciting it easily:
“the first time that this story was told…..”
For the first time in a long time, I did not worry about appearance, about others’ judgements. I knew that I was wanted in that space – that they meant it when they sang that ‘all are welcome’. From the flower ladies to the youth workers. We laughed with, listened to, and in doing so, served each other, on a level. LGBT+-identifying, with mental illness, with learning difficulties, children, octogenarians, Catholics: everyone.
I felt good. I felt good because I felt wanted. The way that I feel depends (almost) entirely upon what you reflect back to me. If you turn away from me, refuse to speak to me, don’t listen to me, I loathe myself for it. I must be hateful and horrid, if you are treating me that way. If there is reason to feel bad, I will focus on it, play it over and over in my mind when I am alone again. On GCSE results day, it was the (erroneous) B grade I focused on, not the string of A*s around it. The smile of a baby can make the bus journey a happy one. The stares of strangers make me feel unusual, ugly. I feel the slightest sting of rejection. I find it easier to remember times of rejection. I expect exclusion. It’s safer that way.
if you come to this table broken,
let this Bread and Wine be your Hope
I know that thinking this way isn’t helpful. That my sense of who I am, of my worth, should not depend on who I am with. On what others think. I am trying hard to remember the good things. I am trying, still, to hope. Hope for my identity to be hinged on God.