Chancel Fright

Oh, Reader.  Have you ever had an upcoming event that made you so nervous you got caught in its pull days in advance?

This coming Sunday is the last day of my church class.  It’s also Membership Sunday.  And it’s the Sunday my mother is coming to visit/sit in on my class.  Plus the little major things, like finishing my very first transaction register in my checkbook, realizing that the birthday coming up is kind of a big deal for me, and getting caught up in the realization that I will be in so much trouble if I screw up this semester.

I woke up this morning (my day off) at about 7:30, freaking out that I was not only late to church but had forgotten to do any of the prep work necessary and had left the pastor, my choir, and my class in the lurch.  Even after I sufficiently wrapped my head around it being Friday, that worry-knot remained heavy in my stomach, demanding I be able to make Sunday perfect from two days away.

I wrote about membership before and how I wasn’t sure it was the right thing to do, yet.  I didn’t escape the net twice, partially because I’m realizing that God doesn’t seem to be moving me anywhere else any time soon, but also that holding on to my old church and my ridiculous commitment issues (no, really, I’m terribly Stereotypical Male about that sort of thing) is denying the life God has created for me here.  So I accepted the invitation to become a member, went through the requisite classes…didn’t ask all of the questions I wanted to, because this seems to be A Really Big Deal only to me.  For everyone, it’s important, but it’s mostly paper; come Monday, nothing will have changed, and we new members will have another certificate for our files and the ability to vote at the summer conference most people don’t attend, anyway.

But I will be of this place for real, now.  It will be harder to run, and there will be accountability to God for what I’m doing here (not, again, that there isn’t now, but it will be official).  The questions for membership that my denomination has are pretty intense, and some of them I don’t know that I’ll be able to keep up with—and I know, it’s the journey, the trying, the getting-back-up that is membership, but I keep thinking of confirmation way back when as I breezed through these things without caring what they meant, who they affected, how they bound me to this God I didn’t actually give a damn about.

So I’m freaking out about membership.  And I’m mildly freaking out about my class, partially because it’s what I do, but also because I don’t really want this to end.  I’ve been more alive in some inexplicable sense the last two months than I have been for some time, and that matters.  But that, I realize, has to be a thing that I don’t hold on to—if this is where God wants me, other opportunities will turn up.

I’m definitely freaking out about my mother.  She has become a strange sort of confidante about this process of discernment—not necessarily in a supportive way, but as a totally unexpected voice of all the doubt I’ve been having.  She wants so very much for me to go off and be the internationally renowned, often-published professor genius that she decided I would be when I announced my intention of teaching back in high school.  And I’m glad for her support of that (even if I did have to fight for two years to convince her that being a lawyer would not work out well for me).  But now that is how she sees me, and every time we talk about church stuff, she’s really happy that I’m happy, but have I made sure that my spending time there isn’t overwhelming the important things I’m supposed to be doing?

So this will be her first time seeing me teach, and it will be at church, my comfort zone (where I haven’t told her I’m becoming a member this same day, for a number of reasons that seem petty outside of my head) that will not be totally comfortable that day.  It never rains but it pours, right?

And in the midst of all this, my friend (who, it seems, I’ve not yet named; we’ll call her Watchful, as I feel she’s going to continue being mentioned) tells me that she’ll be in the front row of my class reminding me that I can do this, and she’ll be with me in the membership service, thrilled that I’m taking this step.  I talked with my old pastor about switching my membership and he said everything I needed him to say.  I looked around the circle of amazing people at this church who have welcomed me, and I hugged Interpreter with all of the craziness that is our friendship, and I see ever so dimly how freaking amazing this journey is, and it doesn’t matter if I fall flat on my face in front of my mother or if I fail in the tenets of membership I’m swearing, because what matters is that these blessed hands and feet of God will be there to help me back up, to push me onward, to walk with me down this path.

I went running this morning to see if I could outrun some of this, and a song I sang for an audition seven years ago got stuck in my head.  It’s based off of a Robert Burns poem, and part of it is “Till a’ the seas gang dry…still I will love you, my dear.”

So He will.  And so will those He’s surrounding me with, and that doesn’t make the worry necessarily go away, but it sure makes it easier to handle.


For thou art my strength and my refuge; and for thy name, thou shalt lead me forth, and shalt nourish me.  Thou shalt lead me out of the snare, which they hid to me; for thou art my defender.  I betake my spirit into thine hands; Lord God of truth, thou hast again bought me.  (Psalm 31:3-5, WYC)

One thought on “Chancel Fright

  1. This reminds me of what you told us in class last week… about how Thomas Aquinas’s family had other plans for him than God did. Look on the bright side: at least no one’s trying to kidnap you! But I know how hard it is to follow the guidance you’ve been given when others have ideas of their own. I’ll be praying for steady nerves for you this Sunday!


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