That’s not how the saying goes. But I think, in some cases, that’s reality.
When you try on a new pair of shoes in a store, there’s some discomfort. You wiggle your toes, inspect with your eyes, stand up, pace the aisles…and make a decision as to whether or not the pair in question will, over time, become fitting to you and your feet. The decision is based more on contemplation than comfort.
Why all the talk of shoes? It’s not that I’m advocating for uncomfortable footwear. (Let’s be real; I don’t even wear heels. Like ever.) I’m advocating for discomfort in our lives — that appropriate degree of discomfort that we have to push past in order to find something fitting to our soles (or our souls…yep, I went there).
This is the metaphor that I return to time and again when I consider that I became, very unexpectedly, drawn to the Anglican tradition in the past year and some months.
I tried on the Anglican tradition shoe in January 2014 and stuck with it for much the same reasons one would stick with any church community — because the people at the parish seemed kind and the sermon seemed good and the pastors I emailed after Visit #1 replied more efficiently than the pastors at the church down the street. What’s more, in their emails, they offered to grab coffee and get to know me. (That was a clincher. We didn’t even go to coffee, not at that point anyway, but an offer like that communicated a genuine desire to know me as an individual rather than just a desire to grow their program attendance.)
Within weeks, I was asking questions about infant baptism and Communion and why priests wear collars and go by “Father So-and-So.”
In April, I got a Book of Common Prayer and started flipping through it many mornings, marveling like a kid in an ice cream shop that there could be so many flavors of prayers and thanksgivings.
In May, the unthinkable happened. I crossed myself. And when I say I crossed myself, I mean two things: first, that I raised my right hand and traced the sign of the cross over my body — forehead, sternum, shoulder, shoulder, back to sternum — and second that I crossed over from a place of my own stubborn comfort toward a place of stirring contemplation.
I used to criticize the practice of crossing oneself as a mindless ritual (which I imagine it could be). But then I heard it described as a wordless prayer. A prayer-action that enlivens our prayer-words. A reminder of the baptismal covenant that we are “sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own for ever.”
And in the midst of all that? Like a bridge that maybe nudged me across myself? Holy Week. Maundy Thursday with its foot-washing, Good Friday with its funereal facing of death and darkness, Holy Saturday with its fanfare over life and light. I don’t know that I’d ever simultaneously understood something so little and loved something so much — and not even been bothered by that potentially conflicting state of mind.
Because maybe love trumps understanding. It’s like there’s time enough for understanding, but what matters now is love — love that leads us gradually into understanding.
Love that whispers “Shoe don’t fit? Wear it.” Stretch it. Break it in.
Walk a while. You won’t walk alone.