This past Sunday night was Praise in the Park, a joint worship experience with my church and two others from our community.
It's the kind of event I look forward to - outdoor worship with the beauty of creation all around, sounds of praise carrying on the air, good friends and a chance to meet a few more. It all just seems unencumbered, worship at its free-est, the kind of place where a girl who feels this running away in her heart has a chance to really get away and at the same time, reconnect.
Because that running away has been there again lately. In the busyness and the family and the calendar and the days and the nights that all but run together right now and the circumstances that keep me here rather than there or far away when I ought to be nearer by and the restlessness - oh, the restlessness - that in times like these, there's not time to stop and worship. There's not time to sit and pray. There's not time to sacrifice to be anywhere because everything is everywhere and everyone seems to need something and forget what I need and I just can't bring myself to settle down for even a minute and sit still for anything and I can't breathe. And when I can't breathe, I panic and run harder because there's got to be fresh air somewhere.
Sunday night, I was in that place. Gasping for air and emotionally exhausted and debating whether the trip to the park was worth anything at all because what I really wanted was some time alone and a good night's rest, and the shelter house wasn't going to have either. I kind of felt this duty to myself, at least, to go because it's the kind of thing that if I don't go, I'll wake up in the morning upset that I missed yet another something and then I'll feel only more pressed for time. At the same time, I'm watching the clock tick away and thinking there's no time for this.
So whatever. I went. Because you never know what might happen.
I could not stay still. Through the first three songs, I kind of wandered, trying to keep my eyes focused on the gathering but hopelessly ready to get out of there. Ready to run. I planted my feet and tried to stay. Closed my eyes and tried to sing. Opened my eyes and tried to breathe. Looked around me at a lawn full of people and just felt stifled and pressured and pained. And I'm fighting all this because I don't want antsy to win. I don't want this pent-up whatever this was inside of me to turn me away from yet another moment with God. I want to worship. My heart, weary as it is, is thirsting to worship. This is worship.
And I can't get into it.
And I start to feel like something is terribly wrong with me. Like something is horribly broken. This is exactly what I need and what I want and what I long for and what I'm aching for and it's right here and I couldn't care less. Then again this gnawing to turn away and just leave. Hop in the car and go home where I'm thinking if I can just sit down and make everybody shut up and make the world stop, for a second maybe I can close my eyes and breathe and something will be ok. Not that anything in particular was not ok. It's just life; it's not worth getting stressed about. It's just been a long couple of weeks and this girl's heart wasn't made for distance. I just wanted to draw near and was now frustrated that I couldn't in a moment when I really thought I ought to be able to.
Then I gave in and turned away. A little at first, trying to hang on to hear one more verse, one more song. Trying to watch everyone else worship, hoping it would catch. Trying to hear the voices of those who had their own details, I know, but they weren't mine and looking for something like hope in there. Then turning fully away and...finding air.
Air and a moment that I know no words will describe. I turned around and it was like there was nobody, and that wasn't a bad thing. What I remember most was the feeling of air hitting the depths of my lungs for what felt like the first time in forever. There was this expanse of green and somehow, I couldn't even see the lot full of cars. What caught my eye was the leaves in the branches, the sky above, the little bridge crossing over the little creek...and absolutely nobody. The band played on, and this worship washed over the moment, washed over me, and I couldn't help but feel my feet start to dance. It took but a few seconds to give in to the smile seeping onto my face. I stayed a few minutes more, just sort of tapping a toe and trying not to make a scene, not that I cared much any more, then danced out to my car with a song that wasn't even playing stuck in my head.
It was the second Sunday in a row. In neither case had I expected it. Two Sunday nights ago, after a day that could have busted my spirit, I had no consciousness except that God had been all over that day and in spite of all circumstance, I had joy. So I'd spent that evening dancing in the yard - literally, embarrassingly dancing - and singing like no one could hear me, though maybe they could, with one hand raised to the heavens and my eyes flitting between closed and the emerging stars. And when I found myself in the same heart just two nights ago, I remembered that night nine nights ago and...that's just my God. That's just how awesome He is.
I forget so easily when I'm exhausted and busy and broken and tired and restless and hurried and aching and whatever else that God isn't something else I have to do. He isn't necessarily waiting for me in the middle of yet another event, another busyness, another something. More often, He's waiting for me in the quiet, which I've completely forgotten exists and yet am absolutely longing for and still hoping to find. Then He tells me to go.
I had to go to the park. He called me to go. Then I go, and I feel like running away and I feel more profoundly like not running away and then there's the invitation to turn away but it still feels like running and finally I give in because I can't fight the angst and the itch and the restlessness any more and He intercepts my weary, restless heart and slows me down and I'm walking...not running...away. On purpose. That I might run into Him.