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Kathy Bradley -- Around and around

Kathy Bradley -- Around and around

Kathy Bradley -- Around and around

Kathy Bradley


There's a church in Grand Rapids, Mich., that used to be a shopping mall. I've never seen it, but I can imagine that its architecture isn't exactly what one would call traditional. I understand, in fact, that the sanctuary - which they may not even call the sanctuary - is sort of, well, round. Not semi-circular with two or three aisles leading up to the pulpit like sun rays on an elementary school bulletin board, but round with chairs or pews placed all the way around the platform where the pastor stands. Interesting.

As I said, I've never seen this church, but I know a good bit about it because I subscribe to its podcast and listen to its pastors' sermons on my iPod while running on the treadmill. I was listening just last week, in fact, when I realized that I'd downloaded not just an ordinary Sunday morning sermon, but the Christmas Eve sermon. I knew this because the pastor started by addressing the parents in the congregation who were obviously a little concerned about having their little ones in "big church."

"Don't worry," he told them in his soothing voice, "if they've run off. We built this place in a circle for just that reason: eventually they will make it back around."

There was laughter, some of it forced, some of it relieved.

"And when they do make it back around," he continued, "they will be tired."

I cannot say that I remember anything he said for the next couple of minutes. I cannot say that I remember picking up my feet and running, though I am sure that I did because I did not fall. All I can remember is the feeling of being hit in the chest by a wave I didn't see coming, the realization of just having heard something of the most profound importance.

I could see those children - dressed in warm Christmas outfits mailed to Michigan by their grandparents, cheeks the color of camellias, smiles open and breathy. They were laughing at the sheer joy of movement, pumping their chubby arms and looking around to make sure that everyone else was running, too.

Running is such a natural thing. We learn to crawl. We learn to walk. We learn to run. We learn that running is faster than walking. We learn that the best method for getting away from something we want to avoid is running.

What too many of us don't learn is that life, like the church in Michigan, is built in a circle. We can run - from decision, from responsibility, from fear or pain - but eventually we will make it back around. No matter how many times we make the loop, no matter how fast or slow we run, no matter how many water stops we make along the way, eventually (Two days? A month? A year? Ten years?) we will be back where we started and we're going to come face to face with that from which we ran.

And we are going to be tired.

Which could be a bit disconcerting given the fact that the decision/responsibility/fear has just been sitting there waiting all this time.

Except for one thing: We're all children. Every last one of us. And we know what to do when we're tired. We know where to go when every last dream has died and every last ounce of hope has leached away. We know where to find arms big enough to hold us and all our fatigue and failures. And we know that it is in quietness and trust that we will regain our strength, the strength to stop running.

Sometime into the Christmas Eve sermon, sometime into my run I noticed that the background rumble had hushed and I could see the children again, this time curled into the laps of their parents, eyelids flickering, chests rising and falling, each and every one of them having made it back around.

 

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