"She is running
A hundred miles an hour
in the wrong direction...
Under the shadow of our steeple,
with all the lost and lonely people,
searching for all the hope
that's tucked away in you and me..."
I know this song...intimately.
Casting Crowns' "Does Anybody Hear Her?" could have been the song narrative to a chapter in my life. A chapter filled with hope..and with despair.
When I "go there," it is the early 1980s and I am walking down a street paved with platinum and prosperity. The setting is one of just a few American towns where there were more Bentleys parked on the streets, than Toyotas, and the average price of a restaurant meal was $200...in the 80s. I was leaving a couture boutique where I'd gone to exchange a one-of-a-kind gift from the designer himself, for something "more to my liking," and as I passed the plate glass window of a another nearby boutique, and caught a glimpse of my perfectly manicured self glancing back at me, I felt as flat and brittle as the glass itself. I knew that self could be shattered as easily as the fragile shell of a robin's egg...and it terrified me so much that I looked away quickly.
On the surface, I seemed to have it all...the job, the boyfriend, the clothes, the car, the right neighborhood, the friends...and, the ever-present ache for something deeper. I have come to learn that this yawning ache is the one thing that no amount of money, drugs, wine (even the best vintages...), designer clothing, plastic surgery, or "stuff" can fill. It is the ache that we try to deaden with social anethesias, but never dies...it has life everlasting. This is the hope that persists. This is the insistent child, the pressing desire, the urgent "gaunt want" that, for me, is "the hunger and thirst for righteousness," that is always, and only, filled by the Christ.
Skip to another day...same year, same city, cars, clothes, shop windows, neighborhoods...but this time I am walking past another plate glass window. In this window, what catches my eye, are a set of books. Each one opened to pages tinted by years of pale blue chalk, marking out citations of scripture and related passages from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. I pause for just long enough to read each of the highlighted sections before walking on.
In that moment, I'm standing in front of a Christian Science Reading Room. I can see the woman sitting at the desk in the room beyond. She looks very nice. I see her look up from her reading, smile, and return to her books.
I wonder if they have a cassette deck and a tape recording of favorite folk hymns I loved as a teen. I consider going in and asking, but I don't know how to cross the threshold of a doorway that seems a mile thick with guilt and regret. Will she note the scent of wine I'd had with my power lunch? Will she have some connection to the church-based school my mom works at? Will she ask me if I realize that I "look just like" someone she knows at the school (my mom and I look quite alike)? Will I bring embarrassment to my mom because of that glass, or two, of wine I'd had with my lobster salad.
The woman doesn't look up from her books again. The glass door with the beautifully etched words, "all are welcome" seems as heavy and impenetrable as the door of a bank vault, and I'm pretty sure that my account is no longer open.
So I walk on.
It will take another few years, a different city, the love of a grandmother, the devotion of a mother, the kindness of a man I'd never met before, and a church community that stepped outside of itself, and boldly asked me (after only one visit to their Sunday service) if I wanted to help out in their Reading Room...to put me on the other side of that door. The church member who approached me must have heard something I didn't think I'd even said. And her response was to give me the opportunity to give of myself. Somehow she knew it was what I needed most...to realize, that even in my brokenness, I had something to share...a desire to serve.
That next day, Monday, I arrived early for my "guest" shift (to plant flowers), shyly said "hello," then walked straight past my new friend (who was sitting at the attendant's desk), made a bee-line for the resource room, where I found the tape player, the cassette recording of the hymns I'd been missing for ten years, popped in the cassette, pressed play, heard the music, and wept. I was home. And even though my family had indulged me earlier that weekend, singing some of those loved songs with me, it hadn't been the same as hearing the actual recording, and feeling like a deserved to be there,,,in a Reading Room...ready, willing, and eager to serve.
Another city, another plate glass window.
I am the woman behind the desk in the Reading Room. The door is wide open. I see a young girl standing outside looking in the window...I smile, get up from the Scriptural study I am immersed in, walk out the door, and join her in front of the window. It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. There are balloons tied to the parking meter in front of our building. A couple of chairs have been pulled out onto the sidewalk. The music is wafting from inside, and out to where we sit and talk about...well, just anything she wants to talk about. No agenda. We are two women who have stopped long enough to find God in a moment of fellowship. It is enough.
I hope she felt heard. I did. We were there for eachother...no hierarchy of spiritual vision or inspiration. Her questions were my questions, and God had all the answers for both of us.
Kate Robertson, CS
Here is the story behind Mark's writing of "Does anybody Hear Her?" The story is a compelling. The song is worth hearing again.
And if you would like to read an earlier telling of a different facet of this experience, here is the link to "In Mercy, In Goodness" from October of 2008.