I usually sit in the balcony at church, for no particular reason. I attend the service Duff's helping in, so I'm almost always by myself. There are benefits and drawbacks to my balcony spot-because the balcony tends to be sort of a revolving door, I often sit by new people, which is great. And my back doesn't fall asleep (I have slight scoliosis) because of the angle of the pews up there. But I can't ever see the baptisms, which stinks. This morning I went to my normal spot, benefits, drawbacks and all.
During the service we introduced some new members (Go Team Rochester!) and I knew it would be a little long. About 1/4 of the way through, I started to have to, erm, use the facilities. I drank some water AND coffee during the Sunday School lecture, silly me. To my right was an elderly couple, and I certainly didn't want to try to squeeze by them, and to my left was a group of 4, so I decided to try to just wait it out. During the 2nd hymn, before the offertory and sermon, I stood to sing but then decided to sit down, because when I stand, the pressure of the baby on my bladder increases exponentially and we still had a lot of service to go. I sat down, and didn't think much of it, till I glanced up at Duff, standing up front in his pastoral robe, looking at me with HUGE wide eyes. I realized he was trying to make sure I was ok, so I smiled and nodded and tried to express that everything was fine. THEN I thought "oh shoot, what if his look meant 'do you need help' and I nodded? We've GOT to decide on a signal or something.'"
Apparently my smile and nod was enough to assure him I was fine. It was really sweet, but I felt bad for worrying him for no reason.
After the service I was talking to Duff and one of the other pastors, and both said they saw me sit down. I told them I realized that IF anything was going to happen, church was a good place-I know that if something had happened, and Duff was temporarily stuck up front, I probably could have gotten our friend Andrew to follow me out with just a look. And then there are all the other people who could clearly see that I'm pregnant and that something was wrong. THEN there are all the doctors in the congregation, specifically MY doctor, who was sitting just below me in the downstairs of the sanctuary. Out of all of the places I find myself during a normal week, there really is no safer place for me as a pregnant woman than at church.
That's a really comforting feeling, but it also reminded me of times when church has not felt like a safe place, emotionally. Church SHOULD be safe-it should be the one place that you can let your guard down and know that you're surrounded by family. Unfortunately it doesn't always feel that way. People aren't perfect, and that includes church people and Christians. Going to church with someone who's hurt you can really do a number on that "safe" feeling we should all have. I once spent and entire year praying that God would help me be a woman of grace and ease every time I drove to church (thankfully I had about a 45 minute drive!). The good news is that if there's any place we can expect to find redemption and healing, it's church. And even if we go through periods where church doesn't feel safe for one reason or another, we can know that it can and will be safe again through the same grace that brought us all there in the first place.