“One consequence of religious belief is a habit of assuming that life has a profound significance, in its broadest outlines and in its finest details.” Marilynne Robinson (Reform Magazine, September 2010)
It was Mother’s Day 2015 and I hadn’t been to church in a while. A long while.
I knew I wouldn’t return to the particular style of belief I’d grown up with and, since I am an avid devotee of the fiction of Marilynne Robinson, a Congregationalist, my brother suggested I visit a Congregationalist church. I was nervous. Feeling alone, I entered a strange new place. I didn’t know a single one of these smiling, comfortable people. It hadn’t occurred to me on a conscious level that – walking into church for the first time in, well, let’s stick with a long while – I had chosen to go on Mother’s Day.
This was complicated. I was in my late thirties; my mother had passed away six years earlier and it had been nearly a year since I’d lost the capacity to become a (biological) mother myself. There I was in a lovely stone church, metaphorically fathoms away from the church I’d known as a child, on Mother’s Day, without a mother and coming to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be one.
What’s that old saying? Oh yeah… The Lord is good and his mercy endures forever.*
This was not the kind of church that slips past sensitive holidays like this one, but the kind of church that celebrates them. As talk of Mother’s Day bloomed in the worship service, I felt a sadness seep through me, a weight. Beautiful little ones were called to the front; they were dressed for spring – sweet pastels and bright whites – and carried baskets decorated with ribbon. They had a gift, the speaker said, for every mother in the room. The weight grew until, “Every woman in this room is a mother. Women, please stand and receive a gift.” The congregants paused. “Yes,” the speaker confirmed, “I mean it. Every one of you.”
I’m not gonna lie, there were tears in my eyes as I stood, awkward and uncertain and aching with wonder. A little girl came timidly toward me, this woman she didn’t know, and handed me a small ball of yarn, the rich pink of a faded rose. It wasn’t much, a small bit of string, but it was enough to remind me that I was seen, that the fabric of myself is knitted up with Something Greater. There was a profound significance in the ball of yarn that little girl handed me.
I didn't make it back to that church, but the experiences of the morning drew me into connection with an openness of Spirit I wasn't sure I could find. That ball of yarn was nothing less than a lifeline.
Prayers for peace and gratitude and connection as we move through this amazing month of celebrating spring and new growth and all the boundary-breaking mother-power that surrounds us.
*(I Chronicles 16:34)
This post was written for inclusion in the May 2018 Columbia District Newsletter for the Oregon-Idaho Conference of The United Methodist Church.