A few years ago my mother said, “Today is Good Friday. Why don’t come to church with me tonight?”
Oh no, I thought. Not the church talk again.
“Mother,” I explained for the hundredth time, “I don’t need church to feel close to God. It’s all here.” I patted my heart. As usual, she wouldn’t accept that reply.
“Would it kill you to visit God once in a while?”
Parental guilt trips
I pondered her request. While I considered myself a spiritual person, I never felt the need to attend church. But Mother’s request came the day before she was flying to Phoenix to spend Easter with my sister. That triggered my paranoia.
What if her plane crashed? What if her vision was impaired in a desert storm and she crashed her car, or she fell asleep by the pool and suffered sunstroke, or forgot her glasses and stepped on a scorpion? I would always remember that I had denied her last request, which wasn’t that I loan her my life’s savings or donate a kidney, but simply that I accompany her to church on Good Friday.
So I said yes. The look of joy on her face almost made me glad of my decision.
We sat in the last pew of the A-frame church. Every few minutes she’d nod and smile as a familiar face strolled in. When the pastor walked by, she called out, “Pastor Dale, I’d like to introduce my daughter.” She beamed with pride and I felt like a little girl again, beautiful and cherished as seen through the eyes of a loving parent.
When the service began, my mind automatically began woolgathering, as it always does when I’m tolerating a boring event.
I started thinking about the weekend ahead. What would I do, where would I go, who would I call? All these things and a million more were running through my mind as Pastor Dale began to speak. It never occurred to me to actually listen to him. I was there in body only, for my mother.
I didn’t mean to listen
But some of the Pastor’s words started filtering through the fogbanks of my mind. Hmmm, this guy wasn’t bad. He wasn’t preaching or pointing or thumping his Bible as he recited passages that had no meaning in my secular world. He was talking softly, gently, as if there was no one else in the room but him and me.
“Have you ever found yourself doubting someone’s love for you,” he asked?
Only a million times.
“Don’t you think Christ felt the same way when he asked, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” All thoughts of the upcoming weekend were put aside.
Then the choir began. “Did you cry when they took away your Lord?” a soloist sang in a strong, sweet, trembling voice. Unexpectedly I found my eyes welling up with tears, overcome with the Spirit. I sat there wide-eyed, not daring to blink lest my mother notice my reaction.
During this hymn the lights began dimming until soon we sat in darkness. Only the silhouette of a large cross, backlit against a stained glass window, remained bathed in a soft beam of light. When the hymn concluded, there was a moment of silence. Then Pastor Dale’s voice sounded from the shadows. “Go in peace.”
“That was nice, wasn’t it?” Mother asked as we got up to leave.
“Not bad,” I gulped, not wanting to reveal how much the service had moved me. If she knew, I’d never know a moment’s peace.
Happy that we had finally shared a church service and her daughter might not be a heretic after all, she talked about her Easter plans in Arizona. Then she asked in a concerned voice, “What are you doing on Sunday?”
“Don’t worry, mother,” I gave the familiar reply. “I can take care of myself.” She didn’t notice when I slipped the church’s Easter Sunday program into my purse. I could take care of myself.
But maybe Mother was right. Maybe it wouldn’t kill me to pay a visit to the one who takes care of us all.