Kneeling at the Altar

Now that I’ve finished Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, I’m reading Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren Winner. In it, she posits a series of reflections on life when you’re in that spot where God is absent and prayer is just impossible. At the time she wrote the book, her mother had died three weeks before she married her (now former) husband and after five years of marriage, she reaches the point at which she can’t continue it because she’s miserable and is making her husband miserable.

It’s an *interesting* read as all of her books; but it’s being really emotionally painful for me to read because I can see myself in her. I read the same fiction she does (which is almost all based in North Carolina) and I’m in a perpetual “middle” in terms of faith. It’s not to say that my faith is gone but instead to say that I’m at a point right now where I frequently see and feel silence from God when I pray.

The hardest reflection to read thus far has been “healing prayer” in which she describes going up after receiving communion for healing prayer. She talks about how she would love to be able to do it one day but at that moment, she can only kneel at the rail and cry with the priest’s warm hands holding hers. I was reading it yesterday while I was eating lunch and I had to choke back tears while eating my teryaki chicken and take some deep breaths to calm myself. Why the tears? It was because I have the same memory.

In 2007, we had a mentally unbalanced parishioner stalking me and I finally wrote her a letter telling her to leave me alone or I would take out a restraining order against her. She whined to anyone who would listen about how I threatened to sue her and OMG-THE-HEART-PROBLEMS-THIS-WAS-CAUSING-HER!!!!! (Did I mention that she was also a pathological liar?) Of course, people believed her instead of me. The sheep hit the fan during Holy Week 2008 (because if anything is going to go wrong in a clergy family, it will be during Holy Week) and after being chewed out confronted by a few parishioners, I decided that it would be better if I took a Sunday off from being a pastor’s wife and being a Lutheran. I needed to go down to Great Falls for some errands so I went to go and bond with my aunt and uncle who lived down there and attended the Episcopal church in town the next morning.

For those new to my blog, I came to faith in the Episcopal church and it’s where I go (or at least wish I could go) when I’m really having problems with my faith or in my life. The liturgy was wonderful that Sunday and after the Eucharist, people were invited to come up for healing prayer. I went up for it and was moved to tears as I knelt at the communion rail and Father Tim clasped his hands around mine to pray for me. I don’t know why but it moves me to tears when people lay hands and pray for me. It might be that I’m allowing myself to be vulnerable, it might be the Spirit within me interceding because I have to words, or it could just be that I understand the power of what is going on.

I went back to Incarnation several times after on Sunday mornings and then to the noon Eucharists on Wednesdays after Daniel was born because it was the only way I would be able to attend church due to his care schedule in the NICU. Father Tim came to see me in the hospital in Great Falls and I feel horrible because I have no memory of it. (I was on some seriously heavy medications at the time to arrest the preeclampsia so it’s not surprising.) Reading what Lauren had to say brought back the memory of the incredible need I had for someone to pray for me during those times when I just could not pray for myself.

It’s been almost two years since we moved from Montana to California and almost three years since I’ve attended Incarnation. I am in such a different place today than I was back then and looking back, I can see the horrific depression I pushed through during that time. My life is so different today: a parish that loves my family, people who support Jon, and my parents nearby. Still, I am comforted by the thought that there are Episcopal parishes out there with people who will hold my hands as I kneel at the altar needing prayers for healing.

2 thoughts on “Kneeling at the Altar

  1. Any time you can get up here, you know you are most welcome at Emmanuel. Fr. Seth is terrific, as are our Deacons, Anne & Lew.

    And Dearheart, I will pray for you, by name, every day for the next year.

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