Church Made Me Feel Like Celine Dion
I have a vivid memory of being thirteen, standing in front of the bathroom mirror with the door locked, repeatedly shout-singing “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” by Celine Dion as tears streamed down my face.
I wasn’t in love with anyone.
In fact, I didn’t even know anyone.
We had just moved back to Los Angeles, from Miami, and the only people I knew or saw, ever, were my sister, Aubrey, who was five at the time, my mom, and our landlord, who gave us such intense heebie-jeebies that we would literally drop to floor and crawl into the other room to hide when we saw her puttering around in the courtyard from the front window.
Though my love interests were non-existent, I was completely overwhelmed by just the possibility of being in love. Of being so overcome with passion that I could cry just saying the words, “I love you” to some mystery man who, at the time, was a strange blend of Tom Everett Scott, the drummer from “That Thing You Do,” Dimitri, the love interest in Anastasia, and Zac, the youngest Hanson brother.
I was obsessed with the idea that I could feel so intensely about a person. And that someone could love me back.
I mean, hormones.
The point is, now I’m an old married lady with a couple of kids. I’ve been married almost TEN years. Wow. And, though we are passionately in love, we don’t stand in the living room and sob as we sing love ballads to each other. Most days we stand in the kitchen while our girls sob and we make trying-not-to-laugh faces at each other. My fantasy at thirteen didn’t quite line up with the reality of romantic love.
But, even though those longings I had for earth-shattering romance may have been more intense than they needed to be, I think I was on the nose when it comes to the love between God and His kids.
Let me tell you about this past Sunday.
I’m part of this church that I love. We just moved out of a warehouse and into a new church building. This week! So, energy was high and a lot of us entered the building with teary excitement, as of course, getting into this place was a group effort that we got to be a part of in a bunch of ways.
So, before anyone even came up to the stage, we got to watch a video. Oh man, this video. It started in Genesis and went through the history of the spread of Christianity. Stephen being stoned. The spread of the Gospel to Ethiopia. China. The West. The founding of the Nashville Baptist Association. The church that planted us. Our warehouse building. And then the final picture was of the building we were sitting in, for the first time. It was so incredible to watch. I could hear the collective sniffling and what I felt was something rare. That intensity. That Celine-Dion-level intensity.
As the video faded to black, I thought about Christians who live in countries where they are being beheaded for owning pages of the Bible or meeting together to worship God. Then, I had a thought I’ve had before. What if a gunman came in here right now?
One of my main life struggles is anxiety, so I play out worst-case-scenarios on the regular. It usually goes something like…Where are the exits? If a terrorist walked in, how would I get to my girls if he was standing between me and their rooms? If the car on my right swerves into my lane, is the left lane empty? Are there any tornadoes forming within a 100 mile radius of me? Is Tennessee a top five state for sinkholes? (It is.)
But, this past Sunday, my thought pattern was simpler. If a gunman walked in right now, I think I could face death with joy.
That sounds crazy! Even as I thought that thought, I was startled. It’s so unlike me to feel that type of calm. It’s so unlike me to really rest in my faith. I feel like my usual faith level is at mustard-seed status (which, thankfully, is all that Jesus says I need). But, sitting in that building, I thought, This is all that matters.
I wasn’t plagued by my normal exit strategy reel.
My main feeling was oddly similar to the feeling I had standing in front of the mirror as a 13-year-old girl. Complete and desperate love for Someone. Love that would say, “Yes, I belong to God. If you kill me for it, it’s totally worth it.”
I love when God gives me the grace to see life that way. I could probably count each time I’ve felt like that with the fingers from one hand. Each time, the best way I can describe it is using a line from that old hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”
At thirteen, the lyrics in my heart were, “There were moments of gold and there were flashes of liiiiiight…” But, this past Sunday, my heart’s cry was somehow more passionate and more peaceful at the same time.
“…and the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace…”