That summer, God began saying to me, “Seek community.” He brought the message in conversations, in articles I read, on television, etc. It was everywhere.
My initial response: Pardon my confusion, God, but I’m pretty sure I’m a shut-in here. It’s kind of difficult to seek out community when community reeks of cologne and in community triggers are lurking everywhere with the sole objective to end me. And frankly, I’m a burden wherever I go. I won’t do that to people. Community, indeed.
I finally arrived here: “Show me what you mean, God.”
My first step was to return to church. Upon reflection, it was an odd choice. Church happens to be one of the most toxic environments due to all the perfumes, air fresheners, food, and crowds.
The whole thing was a hassle. We’d get up early to drive 45 minutes to the 9:15 service with two small children. Once there, most people had a hard time looking me in the eye, even the ones I knew before I was sick. (Masks make things awkward.) Few said hello because they were unsure of the boundaries. No one wants to make the sick girl sicker, so even in a crowd she’s lonely. I couldn’t use the restrooms because of soaps and air fresheners. And I would always—every time—get sick. It might be something unknown in the air. Certain parts of the sanctuary set me off. It might be someone’s lotion or perfume. Once it was the air conditioner. Seriously. I got too cold.
Communion Sundays were awful. I had a choice—sit alone on the outskirts of the auditorium, walk out alone to the foyer or the car, or squeeze in with everyone, get sick, and spend the rest of the day in bed. No option was suitable. It was wrong to purposefully place myself in danger, and impossible to sit in isolation. I was dying inside of loneliness.
My unhappiness with Communion Sunday turned out to be the tenderest of mercies.
In my desperation to make church with my family work, I looked for alternatives. I remembered a video I’d seen about a year prior on one of our weekly church newsletters. This man with a pleasant face had explained that a group met to pray for the church during the first service and invited others to join. I’d looked into back then, but couldn’t participate because the room had been recently waxed. I asked our organizational leader for the pleasant-faced man’s contact information.
I’d had David Wheeler’s number a couple of weeks when I called him one Thursday afternoon in mid-October. He told me the group no longer met on Sunday mornings. He must’ve heard the disappointment in my voice. He asked me what was on my heart.
Hello loaded question.
I told him I was sick and looking for community and that I loved the idea of having a group of people to pray with. So he invited me to a Friday night meeting at the Siegmunds’ house. I didn’t know the Siegmunds. I had no reason to trust the Siegmunds. I knew my husband would be less than thrilled for me to put my life in the hands of strangers. And still I said, “I’ll be there.”