After having gone several weeks without seeing my parents, my husband and I made the decision to drive over on a Sunday, attend church with them, and then spend the afternoon. I’d been separated from them for a while as a result of a self-quarantine after finding out I had potentially been exposed to coronavirus. Not wanting to risk introducing the illness to them, I stayed away for the prescribed fourteen days. Once the recommended duration had passed, I was eager to spend time with them.
They live about an hour away in the next county and a different time zone. We often refer to it as “slow time” because it is an hour behind the Eastern time zone that we are located in. I suppose, though, that the label is fitting in more ways than one.
The small town they live in is the same one where I was born. A rural southeast Alabama town where the brick storefronts that line the city square are the same ones that were there when I was a kid. Many have been occupied by different businesses over the years and many others sit vacant. Once you get on the other side of the city limits, there’s nothing but stretches of land connected by fence posts, separated by houses and barns. It’s a place where most folks have a garden and a tractor.
The church is the one I spent my childhood in, walked the aisle to make a profession of faith in, and got baptized in. It too is very much the same although instead of being the little white church in my memories, it’s been bricked up with a wheelchair ramp added that leads up to the front landing.
The sanctuary was refreshed several years back, but outside of a fresh coat of paint, updated carpet and pew pads, it hasn’t changed. The little baptistry behind the choir loft is outlined by a wooden frame engraved with a vine and leaf pattern. On the baptistry wall hangs an illuminated cross. To the left of the choir loft sits the piano, to the right the organ. Directly in front of the pulpit is a wooden table holding a flower arrangement and the offering plates. On this day, it also held the sacraments for Communion. We were thrilled when we realized we’d arrived on a Sunday when they were partaking of the Lord’s Supper. We hadn’t done that since before the lockdown.
During the sermon, the pastor told about a day the preceding week that had been especially hard. No details. Just hard. In the telling, he said something that my heart immediately connected with. He said it had been the kind of day that made you want to go home again. Home to Mama and Daddy. Home to the familiar sights and sounds of childhood. Home to sit around the dinner table and enjoy the simple things. I fought to keep back the tears. He had put his finger on something in me. It was a longing that I too had been feeling.
I must confess that I’d been shaken by the turmoil of recent weeks. Never in my life has the future been as uncertain as it seems now. COVID has come along and turned the world upside down. The current political, social, and economic climate is confusing and frightening. There has been so much said and done that I cannot make sense of, and rather than settling down, the craziness seems to be escalating. I fear where it will end.
I suppose all of this is why the pastor’s words struck me so. What I really want is to be able to go home. Not to a place, but a time, a feeling. I want to put my head on my mother’s shoulder and breathe in her scent. Equal parts grace, comfort, and Jergens cherry almond scented lotion. I want to see the twinkle of mischief in Daddy’s eye and hear him call me “baby” in that way that sets the world right again. I want to play outside until dusk, then go in and sit down to the supper table where I’m served up a big helping of love and understanding. I want to lay down in my little bed with the purple flowers on the bedspread without a care in the world, knowing I’m safe and secure.
There is a place in the heart of God where this kind of peace can be found. Granted, it is hard to get there sometimes. He has told us, though, that if we set our minds on Him, He will keep us in that place (Isaiah 26:3). I struggle to continually pull myself away from the clamor and noise that fight for my attention. To be honest, it can be exhausting. But God is faithful, and just as He did on that Sunday morning in the little country church, He will let us know that He hears our deepest cry. He hears, and He understands. We are not alone.
Sitting on the pew with my parents, husband, and nephew, I took the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper, and I remembered that the victory has already been won. Jesus told us that in this world we would have trouble, but He said to be of good cheer because He has overcome the world (John 16:33).
On that final day, when all is said and done, we will go to the place our hearts long for. There will no longer be any hindrance to our place of communion with Him. On that day, when we step across the threshold, we will be embraced by the One we came from. He will wipe the tears from our eyes and throw back His head in joyful laughter for we will be home. Home at last.
Copyright © 2020 by Terri Miller
Terri Miller is an Alabama girl who loves gardening, cooking and bird watching in her backyard. She lives with her husband of 34 years and their Boston terrier, Gabby. Terri has worked in the technology arena for 23 years, but her real passion is writing about the moments in life that connect us to God and to each other. You can follow her blog at https://lifeismoments.blog/.