After my son was diagnosed, I went to the altar with my grief. Many of my friends gathered over me to pray with me and for me. A friend took this photo. It’s a moment I will never forget.
Sometimes on Sunday when I am at church, between singing and listening to the message, I go to the altar to pray on my knees. I don’t always. But sometimes, when I do, my world is transformed.
Let me explain.
I get distracted by shiny things. Who sitting around me do I need to talk to? Will my daughter (shyest girl in the world) be okay in children’s church today? Or even if I am “on task” I get lost in the words, lost in the act of singing or watching the people around me. In prayer my mind wonders. When praying that I could forgive someone, I end up arguing with them in my head. While praying for peace I end up thinking of all the things I need to do. And so on, and so on.
When I go to the altar, there is less distractions. I get to focus on what’s important. I am there on my knees for a specific reason – to talk to God.
I still can get distracted in my prayers, but ache in my legs reminds me. I get distracted by the beautiful music, but the cross behind the singers reminds me. I get distracted by insecurity of knowing people are watching me, but the candles remind me. I get reminded about what matters on Sunday -meeting with God- not all the other stuff. The rest is just icing on the cupcake.
Sometimes it’s hard, knowing people could be watching you. It takes courage. It takes moving out of the crowd…being purposeful. It makes me make a statement to God that I my intentions are serious.
I’ve grown up in the church. I know the right things to say. How to pray out loud and to myself. Many times I find myself saying the right things, but not meaning it… and sometimes I do mean it but it’s the same thing I said the last 5 weeks. Words can become empty. By moving out of the crowd, out of my comfort zone, I take my relationship a little more seriously.
If my husband told me he loved me every day, but never hugged me…never went to hold my hand… how empty those words would become?
That’s the same for me. My words become empty but by getting on my knees, I am trying to hold God’s hand…to show that I am serious. That this isn’t a ritual I go through because my husband is on staff or because I want to be seen as the good Christian.
It’s hard to explain but by making myself take God a little more serious, by occasionally physically showing him that I want to be true, it transforms my relationship with him. From stale to intimate.
Then at times I get lost. The blaring loud music drowns out the cell phones, coughs, and chatter. If you can get past the feeling of everyone behind you, you will never feel more alone but filled. I’m not concerned about others sitting next to me or behind. I’m not concerned with feeling off to the side and by myself. I’m just there. My head is filled with prayer and music and that’s it.
My life lately has been overwhelming. To go, and just be in the moment, get lost in the music and the prayer, is nothing short of magical. Nothing else has quite the same effect. That’s when I can let it go.
I let go my fears, my anger, my mistakes, my regrets, and my tears. They are left there at the alter. There is something about the physical act of letting it all out, and then getting up and walking away from that spot. Sometimes the physical act of turning around, and going back into the world…or a pew is enough, to really let go.
I’m not suddenly better or all my problems are fixed when I get back to my pew, but many times I am different. There have been times where I have vented my sadness and fears, and now I have the strength to get through another week. There have been times where I was struggling, someone came up to pray with me at the altar, and I knew I would be okay. There have been times where I have been overjoyed to kneel before the symbol of Him, the Cross, to say that I am beyond thankful for the ways He shows up in my life, and it just makes me happy.
But the main reason I go to the altar, the main thing that changes my life, is I go to tell God that I am His. That I want to do life with Him. Life without is not option.
I use those words because when I came back to the church, after the lowest part of my life, in the back pew, I broke down and told God that I couldn’t life without him anymore. I was His.
So when I re-surrender, sometimes once every six months, sometimes every Sunday until I get my act together, I use those words. I am Yours. But I am not a shy person talking to a long lost friend anymore. I’ve been “walking” with Him again for five years now. I won’t hide.
So, I surrender myself at the altar and I am transformed.