Tonight I walked back to the chapel, after the black caps and gowns had paraded past, had gone out to dinner, had found their way to celebrations and shouting and the I-can’t-believe-it’s-here that was my own just a year ago. I walked, and walked, feeling the blisters where my shoes don’t quite fit my feet, feeling the dip and pull of my shoulders after carrying the day, feeling the weight of my body pulled towards the earth.
Maybe my knees knew where they wanted to go before my heart did.
I sat alone in the chapel, in a back pew. I stared at the empty chairs, the empty, echoing room. There were only a few chandeliers lazy and lit, swaying almost as an afterthought of wind. We breathed, the room and I. We waited each other out. I waited, what felt like an age in the sweetly dimming sunlight, for God or maybe just for some sense of something out there, some echo of yes, we see you, from the pews and benches, from the hymnals flung in piles or the ferns beckoning me with their long green fingers.
Oh, God, love is hard.
It is hard to want a thing so delicate, so very unsayable, that our words gesture at it almost helplessly. It is hard to walk in a thing that I barely know. It is hard to widen my heart past the length of the day and the ache in my feet and the steady drumbeat in my left temple. I slid off my shoes – a reflex – and I folded in on myself.
God, love is hard.
I sat and sat and sat and sat. And nothing changed. No whisper in the breeze through the single open window. No flame of hope or joy streaming over me. No promises or reminders resounding in the empty room. I could hear the fans whir themselves to sleep. I could hear a clock keep its time. I could almost hear the slight shake in my hands against the edge of the pew in front of me. But the house of worship was quiet.
I’m the girl who always wants the voice from heaven reassurance. I’m the girl who expects Him to say it loud and say it obvious, a gold star on my forehead at the end of each day, an answer when I worry. And the stillness echoed so loud I was afraid I might drown in it. Be still and know… I’ve never know how to do that. Be still.
My mother knows how to make silence with the littlest ones on Sunday mornings. With them, she weaves stillness through their hands and toes and flailing elbows and anxious knees. The youngest learn to listen to the silence, the hollow widened space where God walks. Again, they must teach me. Again, I know so little, sitting alone in the chapel in the middle of the sunset chasing away the afternoon. I know so little about a world hollowed and lit by silence. I know so little about how God sounds; I wonder how much I have lost in not listening.
But it was still in the chapel tonight.
Maybe that was Him.