Reverend Brett greets the congregation and we do it all again.  This time the order of service changes slightly and the last thing that happens is LeLaina singing.

“Courage is not being hard.
It’s time to peel back all of the layers
You put between who you’re meant to be
And who you are
And go be who you are.

So much disappointment to finally understand
That there is no such thing as perfect
We’re all simply doing the best that we can
And we have a choice to live or truly be alive.

This is your life.

Child it’s time to break the shell
Life’s gonna hurt but it’s meant to be felt.
You cannot touch the sky from inside yourself
You cannot fly until you break the shell.

Child it’s time to break the shell
Life’s gonna hurt but it’s meant to be felt.
You cannot touch the sky from inside yourself
The bird cannot fly until it breaks the shell.

Do with these words what you will
It’s time for us to be real
You’ll be stuck on the ground until
You finally break the shell.

I have nothing left with which to resist my distress.  I feel my face crumble amid words that feel directed right at me, so far from flying, so painfully struggling on the ground to break free of a shell that is much, much too hard.  Someone has placed a box of tissues next to me and I gracelessly mop up my running mascara and snot and foundation, eventually holding a tissue over my mouth to keep from screaming with pain.  My tears stream hot down my face and my eyes are squeezed tightly shut.  There I am really, really feeling all the pain of life as I sit totally exposed at the front of the congregation.

The closing hymn is about being “On my way to the freedom land,” and I try to pull it together and sing, my voice shrill and strident.  My hands ball into fists at my sides as I fight to participate.  It isn’t long before my voice breaks and I give in and simply stand there weeping.

Kevin the choir director comes to me first and holds me while I weep on his shoulder.  He speaks words of comfort and reassurance and when he lets me go another singer steps up to offer a hug.  I start to lose track of who is holding me, but I am being held and loved, seen and validated and assured that I am not alone.  Lea wraps her arm around me and holds me as we walk out of the sanctuary where I brave the line to thank Reverend Slack and Reverend Brett and Reverend Grove who each hold me in turn, offering me their thanks and their support and their love.

Lea takes me to lunch and we talk about the breakup and my grief.  We share stories and truffle parmigiana fries and chocolate.  She’s gentle and motherly wiping trails of mascara from my face.

When I finally go home I still miss Kevin.  I’m still heartbroken and devastated.  I feel very much as though a large truck has run me over and then turned around and done it again several times–but I also feel buttressed by the circle of love which has been woven around me.  The very things I’ve been desperately in need of–being loved and held and seen–have been offered to me today in my spiritual community.  I don’t know where love is supposed to come from, I don’t trust that it has a reliable source–but even in my fear and woundedness, I know no way to show up other than open and undefended.  In my refusal to armor myself, love finds its way to me.

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