Fulfilling my Lenten vow only sort of, inconsistently, is actually a great measure of growth for me.
Yesterday in church a little girl in the pew behind me was having trouble using her voice at a volume that the adults were comfortable with. I handed her the case for my headphones. It’s round and has a zipper that goes all the way around. The little girl was probably two and a half, and it looked to me like just her level of fine motor.
It was close. She could not figure out that you had to hold it close in order to zip it.
“Can you put stuff inside it?” she asked me, in a very quiet voice.
“You can put stuff inside it,” I said, modeling standard sentence structure and reaffirming her standard use of a question.
I tore a corner off of my bulletin, took back the case, put it inside, and handed it back to her.
One of the regular games babies and toddlers like is put in/take out, closely related to hand it to me/hand it to you.
The little girl’s mom was trying to quiet her other child, a baby who was pretty “fresh out,” as my sister says. Little girl took a visitor card from the pew and began tearing it into tiny pieces. I wondered if I had taught her to do this, or if she was already into tearing before I modeled it. Too late now.
Then I turned around, as the choir was done singing, and the stuff was happening up front again.
When I turned around again, the mom and kids were gone. The headphone case had been set in my bag.
The other notable event at church was the talk about the corona virus. I had a dream last week and one prominent shape was a corona virus shape.
We are to not shake hands (we had already shaken hands, repeatedly), we were to drink from the cup, which was safer than dipping. The servers would wash up more thoroughly than usual. You did not have to take communion. God could get to you any way. You could just get bread. Or get a blessing.
Now, if there is one thing I’m not going to skip at church, it’s the wine.
The priest told us not to shake hands after we had already shared the peace, that is, after we had already shook hands with everyone.
Okay, I was late, so maybe this talk had happened at the beginning.
It’s okay not to shake hands, the priest said. I mean, of course it is.
In the real world, though, in the moment, I can think of no greater insult than a refused hand at a handshake moment. It’s really, really bad.
The tension between spit-mud Jesus and careful measures to prevent the spread of a bad virus… strange. Jesus never met anyone he didn’t greet or affectionately and clap on the shoulder. In my understanding.
Who tells the story best? I’ll say Luke, 5:12-16ish.
Once, when he was in one of the cities, there was a man covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.”
Then Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do choose. Be made clean.” Immediately the leprosy left him.
After the service, a man introduced himself to me, as the extrovert churchgoers will. I am always grateful, as an introvert. He put out his hand, and then motioned to do the terrorist fist bump instead, and then unfurled his hand, and both of us were fumbling then. He had white hair, like white hair he had earned, so I thought, maybe I shouldn’t shake his hand because… but I gave up and gave him my hand.
Closeness is a risk, and distance is a risk, too. Too much closeness can wear blisters, and too much distance can let the callouses we need to interact wear off, and we become too delicate to live.
I shook, then I washed my hands. I drank from common cup. Lady holding it gave me a big gulp, maybe because she was concerned she wouldn’t get rid of all of it, with some people just taking bread.
Life isn’t risk avoidance. It’s risk management. Handshakes happen. You can get “it” many ways: the “it” of the virus, the “it” of the wine, the “it” of whatever you’re missing. Reach out. Then wash up.