Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of one’s house for love,
it would be utterly scorned.
~ Song of Solomon 8:6-7 (NIV)
I’d like to share an excerpt from a paper I wrote sophomore year of college in my autobiographical writing class:
Walking in the back door, a friendly voice greets me by name. My heels click as I walk down the hallway in time with the floating voices of the choir warming up. Weaving my way through the crowded concourse, the organ music rattles the glass doors as the current church service draws to a close. Giggles ring through the air as children push their way in and out of the sea of legs. Familiar laughs and voices surround me, and I know that I am at home with my family. Because, as Vanessa Carlton comments, “sometimes family are the ones you choose” (Carlton).
Grace Covenant has led me to form the kinds of relationships you know will last. In the nursery of Mom’s bible study class during my toddler years, I received hugs, kisses, and homemade Valentine’s cards from a boy named Trey. Our relationship never moved to a romantic level, but Trey is the one who took me to my senior prom and is still a constant in my life today.
My relationship with the church has taught me the power of love and the strength and support that comes from that feeling. We have taken a stand in the Presbyterian church’s beliefs on gay rights by ordaining a lesbian in our church. We have supported families through countless battles with cancer, suicides, and premature deaths with more homemade meals and greeting cards than is imaginable. We have celebrated births, baptisms, first Communions, confirmations, and weddings.
I like to think that my family has made a mark on Grace Covenant, too. After my preschool class, which was held at the church, I would sit on the floor in the hallway playing with my Polly Pockets while my mom helped paint the beautiful Noah’s Ark mural in the education wing. I still point out to visitors the inside of the pink flamingo that I was allowed to help with. My dad points out that the bird he helped with had to be painted over.
Part of what makes a family strong is having a background and a common sense of roots. Oftentimes in a biological family this comes almost automatically—common ancestry, common experiences. But with my church family, it is something we had to create ourselves, and I am thankful every day to Mom and Dad for helping to create such a support system in my life.
I share this with you today because I think it’s the best I’ll ever be able to capture the impact my church has had on my life.
B didn’t grow up with a strong church background. His family dabbled in youth programs, church basketball leagues, etc., but any real involvement ended by his middle school years. By the time he and I started dating, B had taken a pretty strong stance against organized religion. He’s shared with me since then that he was weary of my faith when we started dating, and feared that it would be a gap we just couldn’t reach across.
Luckily, it’s been anything but that. Within the first year of our relationship, B started coming to church with me fairly regularly. Soon, he even attended a few Sundays when I was up at school. His involvement became more and more regular, until this past November when he decided to take a leap into membership. This, obviously, was a huge step for someone who had been so turned off by organized religion earlier in his life.
I feel so grateful to B for giving my second home a chance. It doesn’t surprise me that he ended up loving Grace Covenant–our church is known for being welcoming and inclusive. I’m so thankful that B and I will have the chance establish our lives as a married couple in a supportive community of people who have seen me grow from a toddler in the nursery to a director of the middle school choir. I look forward to (someday–not too soon!) bringing my own little ones into the mix and them having similar experiences.Thank you, GCPC, for all you’ve done for us! We ❤ you 🙂