Our church was a typical church building, not a super-mega church with Starbucks and seating for 35,000 inside, and not a store front in a strip mall. But also not a cathedral from the 1700's. I think it was built in the 1950's.
There were four or five stories of classrooms. We used to roam the hallways and duck into dark doorways, slinking through the catacombs like characters from the mystery books I liked to read. Always wondering if the Holy Ghost was the type to "haunt" church hallways.
I remember when we discovered the costume closet; a narrow room with rows and rows of tunics and angel wings and Roman Soldier breastplates and sandals and handmade sheep costumes for the preschoolers... Seeing the shepherds robes from the Christmas pageant and the sequins knotted onto the angels' robes right up close inspired a new respect for Church. Suddenly, it didn't seem to take itself so seriously.
I think children are susceptible to finding holy moments, mostly because they don't get all tangled in theology I felt just as much sanctuary squinting up at the shelves in the art closet as I did lying on the pew in the auditorium.
I am trying to remember how to lie still, how to be alone in the dark and listen to nothing or watch shadows play. I am trying to find my sanctuary again, in my grown up skin.
And here are the things I have learned about sanctuary:
- It often changes shape
- It is moments, hallowed ground, loamy earth.
- It is an afternoon in the sun in the crisp spring air beneath frozen cherry blossoms where a holy voice speaks to you, simple and honest, asking you to be kind to yourself.
- A safe place where truth creeps in and pushes open the shutters, and sometimes there is nothing left to do but cry at the raw potency of it.
- It is location and idea.
- It is being quiet and being heard.
- Sometimes it has a pulse.
- It is the extension of grace, of time, of understanding.
- If time has two hands, it is where one holds the other...and waits.
- A sanctuary collects laughter and allows it to bounce wildly around; it collects tears and memorials and secrets and lends a measure of holiness to the pieces.
- It has allowed me to be broken, to be mending, to be stuck, still, moved.
I have been face down, dirt in my teeth, ashamed, mistaken. And I have been rolled over, forgiven, reset.
Over the years, I have found my sanctuary in my family, in my Sunday School attendance chart, on vacation, Following me around like a tethered pup, in a state of mind, as an elusive concept, tied to a memory of a fragrance, in ceremony, in a campaign, in the middle of the night, in the pages of a notebook...
I have found that sanctuary is something to be discovered and declared; and it is something to be reflected on, savored in review.
And I am beginning to understand that sometimes it just beneath my feet if I am willing to kick off my shoes.