Sunday, 30 September 2007

Standing room only.

Word travels fast. While greeting this morning, a quick head count was made and Jacob realized that there weren't enough seats for everyone.


That's never happened before. A half-dozen men went down to the community centre and borrowed thirty stacking chairs. Still not enough. People lined the walls, filled out the back of sanctuary and Jacob began his return to the pulpit with a emotional remark about not telling the fire department how many people were packed into a room meant for about half that. It was met with loud laughter from at least a dozen of the volunteer firefighters who were present and then to Jacob's surprise a round of spontaneous applause.

True to form, with a catch in his voice and his devastating dimpled grin, Jacob paused and took one of his very long silent moments to just softly smile out at everyone, saving me for last, thank God, I was in tears already at the amount of love and support in that room today.

Announcements were brief. He commented on a similar but opposite phenomenon this same week two years ago when just eight people showed up for the service because of the flu and laughed and then had the perfect launching point for his sermon on humility.

Jacob spoke about everyone needing grace. About being willing to learn and accept yourself for who you are. It was as biographical as it was spiritual and no one missed a single word. I didn't look around, like everyone else I was riveted to his eyes as he spoke and when he wrapped it up he was rewarded with one of those other long silent moments in the church when you know people get it, when they have heard everything he said and are applying it to themselves like tiny firework epiphanies.

And we had one of our own, like we sometimes do, where his words are applied to our life together like a thick paint with very good coverage and it hides the mars and discoloration and makes a fresh new outlook possible. A sermon as a launching point for this week, for this year, which has been all about humility as we learn to work with what we have, move forward and be ourselves, taking help where we need it, being good people and not being afraid to say, I've made a mistake. Can you help me find my way back to where I need to be?

After his closing remarks, he walked down the steps and took my hand and kissed my cheek and then we took the kids to the door, where we usually shake hands and bid people well before Jacob would return to his office to organize his papers and do a postmortem with Sam on the service. Except today we spent close to ninety minutes receiving hugs and encouragement and kind words of support and the overwhelming consensus that the entire congregation was happy (no, more relieved) to have him back. I wondered briefly if Sam was the least bit put off by the reaction to Jacob's first day back but Sam was as sure as everyone else when he gave me yet another hug and told me that he is sure that this is where Jacob belongs.

I didn't think this would be so hard to write. There's a sense of homecoming that pretty much eradicates the uncertainty of every other aspect of life today. There's a sense of our support network being far greater than what we had previously acknowledged once again. It keeps growing.

Most people didn't give me the delicate hug and the it's good to have you back refrain. No, I got full-on hard squeezes and most people simply had huge smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes as they told us welcome home.

This gives him strength so far beyond anything else. He keeps turning his back on it and then he gets slapped down by life and he is reminded of what he stands for, and what he leans on and I don't think he'll try to walk away again. He's had a long search to find himself in all of this.

Once the remaining stragglers were gone, Jacob took a moment to say goodbye to us since Joel and Christian had convinced us that Boston Pizza would be so much more fun than going home for soup so off we went.

Lunch was fun with the five of us, those two get along quite well and Joel tends to analyze me less in mixed company (thank god). We came back here and Christian and the kids have spent a good hour or more playing games.

I called Jake a few minutes ago on his cellphone to see how he was and he was so emotional. It's such a huge part of him and he knows damn well the heartaches and the politics and the long hours are going to come spilling back in, the close shadow always present, but at the same time he has been redeemed. He knows this is where he needs to be and he needs it to be who he is. He needs it for strength and rebirth and he can get through anything with his faith as his soft place to fall.

I laughed softly and told him to remember that when he wants funding for fixing the fence or paint but really what he was telling me so gently was that he's aware that I can't be his faith and that his balance works and I need to work harder. A gentle but obvious recrimination but one I can accept.

With grace.

With humility.