brave, breathing, church, paths

The Sacred and the Profane

“Uncover the sacred in the profane,” she said.

I sat in this very room for the first time over twenty years ago. There were couches in the corner where we gathered for Wednesday night Bible study. The lights were dimmed and a candle was lit. The bowl began to sing and our breathing deepened. We knew we were in the presence of the Holy, even though I’m not sure many of us could have said what that meant to us then and there.

In the other corner, behind the couches was his office. How many times did I sit in there hoping he could answer my questions, solve my problems and make it all better? Too many times to count. There, sacred words were scattered with paper plates and bandanas — along with all the other the things youth ministers keep stored in their offices. Bibles and individually wrapped snacks. A ripped bag of chips next to permission slips. T-shirts from last year’s mission trip entangled with tools never to be claimed.

picture of me with my youth minster
With Bill the day I graduated from seminary.

Old, tattered bookshelves surrounded the room. Those kind of shelves that are missing a cabinet door at the bottom while the shelf at the top has fallen in. Shelves full of high school yearbooks and binders of pictures from retreats and mission trips. Scattered among the binders were random pieces from a game long since thrown away or a lone snack that hadn’t been discovered yet.

I spent the night in that room — ah, the infamous youth group lock-ins! I wonder how many hours of my life were lived safely inside those four walls? I didn’t realize how much that room impacted my spiritual journey. The safety it provided. The familiarity, the refuge. Just an ordinary room full of extraordinary experiences. They may seem ordinary to the unseeing eye — but to me, the extraordinary abounds.

Today the room was full of people I did not know. An open floor was replaced with folding chairs. The big rear projection TV was gone and now a flat screen hung on the wall. The title of the workshop is “Everything is ordinary. Everything is extraordinary.” How appropriate. I was living out the title in that very moment.

business card with my quote

The floor that we once sat on now contains a labyrinth. Instead of industrial carpet that covers all sins, the floor is now painted in black and white with a path for letting those sins go. How many times did I sit on that floor with my friends pondering our spiritual paths? And now, our ponderings provide the foundation for others asking similar questions. A room that held the doubts and wonders of earnest teenage hearts is now occupied by adults with a yearning to put those doubts and wonders into words.

friends at a reunion
Some of those earnest teenagers now adults at our 20th high school reunion two years ago.

It was all a bit too surreal. She suggested ringing a bell to signal a transition into the sacred space of writing. I heard the singing of that bowl — the signal that it was time to stop giggling, if only for a few moments. She spoke of using a rock on your belly to pay close attention to your breath. I felt the deep breaths begin as the breath prayer I was taught in that very room came back to mind: Jesus Christ, Son of God / Have mercy on me.

I think of that version of me — eager to say the right thing, be the right kind of girl, cautious and yet occasionally bold. What would it be like for us to sit together on those couches long gone? What would she be surprised to see me doing? What would she be in awe to hear me say? Would she be sad about the dips and turns our path has taken or would she celebrate with me the strength I discovered (with her help, I’m sure of it)?

I imagine the me of today would sit there lovingly watching her try to find the right words. I imagine saying to her, It’s okay, darling. You don’t need to work so hard. You are loved, fully and completely, and that’s enough. I wouldn’t want to scare her about what’s coming, but I imagine saying something like, It’s not going to be easy, but you’re going to come out of this so brave and courageous and strong.

“Uncover the sacred in the profane,” she said.

It’s all here in this room. The sacred was the profane. The profane was the sacred. The ghosts of that room still remain — not within those walls, but within the memories I hold. All of it — the sacred and the profane.


1 thought on “The Sacred and the Profane”

  1. Too many memories are evoked within those four walls for one blog post, for sure! It was my honor to sojourn there with you in the cocoon of mutual respect and admiration. That youth group was filled with fun, smart, sometimes ornery, yet so often insightful young persons and adults volunteers. For bringing memories to mind, I thank God for you. May you continue to cherish that at place and time for it was jam-packed with Spirit-moments .

    Liked by 1 person

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