What I Learned About Myself In Church
It was a normal Sunday morning… kind of.
The first few hours were spent saying see you later with moments when I by accident slipped in a good-bye. It was my last Sunday in the little comfortable world I had made in Virginia. In five days I would be hopping on a plane to live a thousand miles away from home to serve in England alongside Youth With A Mission (YWAM). Meaning it was my last Sunday walking into church surrounded by people who knew my name, and more than that, my weird quirks. I always leave feeling encouraged from church, but this Sunday there was a sliver of sadness as for the first time it hit me that I was actually leaving.
As I sat in my seat the music began and I glanced around out of curiosity to see whom I was singing with. I looked around into the sea of mostly familiar faces and then looked to my right and to my left and silently thanked God, that as a Father He gives us good gifts, like friends that become family and a community to bear burdens with. I then looked down to the ground but in doing so realized something different: my arms were crossed. I glanced back across the sea and suddenly felt like the odd one out.
You see, truthfully, I had been living life with my arms crossed for a long time. Whether I’m walking or sitting or standing, my arms were interlocked. I even remember biking at physical therapy and my arms were crossed. Looking back, I must have looked really awkward. If I am being honest, crossed arms were a comfortable way of living for me. It was a way that I had learned to cope with the pain and changing circumstances in my life—things like losses, silence, and death in every form. But it was only on that Sunday morning as I was in church, arms tightly crossed, that I realized that not only my arms were crossed physically, but even more so emotionally over my heart. It is how I protected my soul from any pain that could enter, from any person that could hurt me or words that would cut too deeply. Physically it was my safety blanket and emotionally it kept me at a comfortable distant from others. But as someone recently told me, you don’t know what you don’t know, right?
As always, the singing came to an end and sermon went by and then it came time for communion. A family meal we partake in every week and a time of remembering and rejoicing.
My friends to my left and right got up and the people started flowing by me as the internal battle started to rage inside of me. The streams of lies began, whispering to me of what I believed I must do to come to the table: be clean, have it all together. Confess so I can receive.
But week after week our pastors graciously remind us that we come to the table to be reminded of what we are cleansed from. As I sat and hesitantly inched forward to stand up and walk to the table, I thought to myself, “I must receive and to receive I must uncross my arms.”
But I couldn’t on my own. There were too many hurts. It’s was too vulnerable for me to uncross my arm and too uncomfortable. It’s scary living life with arms uncrossed.
As I stood up and walked forward, I heard mumbling and it never sounded more beautiful.
The body of Christ broken for you. The blood of Christ shed for you.
In that moment, a loud voice entered in. Let me introduce you to him: His name is Jesus.
For me? I asked Him.
Gently, He responded:
Yes, for you Kate.
Yes, right now.
Yes, I love you.
Yes, my promises are true.
Yes, It is finished.
Yes, I gave you my righteousness. Yes, I see your pain. Yes, I care. Yes, you are cleansed. Redeemed. Righteous. My daughter.
Yes, I uncrossed my arms on the cross so you may uncross yours.
Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Yes, you can come to me with your arms crossed but you can’t remain there.
The mumbling became crystal clear as I stood in front of the bread and the wine, the body and the blood, and tenderly set my hands in front of me to receive.
I tore off the bread.
The body of Christ broken for you.
I took the cup.
The blood of Christ shed for you.
With arms uncrossed, I received. Every week, a miraculous transaction that leaves me wide-eyed and thankful.
I returned to my seat and ate and drank as an old hymn began playing, echoing through the gym I stood in. Instead of crossing my arms I closed my eyes and started to tear up as I listened to the truth of the hymn being sung over me.
Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true word;
I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.
And I prayed,
Be thou my battle shield, sword for the fight; Be thou my dignity, thou my delight; thou my soul’s shelter, thou my high tower: Raise thou me heavenward, O power of my power.
O God be my everything, be my delight. Be Jesus, my glory my soul satisfied.
I looked to my left and looked to my right and then looked down and thanked God for His grace to uncross my arms.
It was a normal Sunday… kind of. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kate Moulton recently returned from traveling with Youth With A Mission around Europe and Asia. When she isn't studying Psychology you can find her sitting at a round table with friends and a good cup of coffee. She is a big fan of all things peanut butter and never misses an opportunity to be outdoors. You can follow her writing at katevmoulton.wordpress.com and check out her photos on Instagram @katemoulton.