THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Carissa Henry Headshot

I Walked Out of Church and Ran Into God in the Hallway

Posted: Updated:

When I go to church, it's for two reasons: to take my children and to hear the singing. For years now, the singing is the only thing I personally get out of church, the only time my soul stirs a little and I am moved.

In this particular church, after the choir has concluded their musical production and the children scamper off to children's church, there is a Southern Baptist tradition they embark upon. With the pianist banging away on the keys, everyone in the entire church stands up and greets, shakes hands, and exchanges hellos with as many people as possible.

The extremely friendly, happy members flit about the church like social butterflies, from one side of the sanctuary to the other, barely making it back to their seats before the music ends. It's like musical chairs for well-meaning adults. Me, I hold down my position in the overflow section, "Backseat Baptist" territory. I shake the hands of those in my immediate vicinity and secretly hope that no one else spots me.

This particular Sunday though, I just couldn't do it. My heart wasn't in it. So when the congregation merrily rose to their collective feet with smiling faces and out-stretched hands, I ducked out to the bathroom. My three-year-old black ballet flats were so scuffed and worn out that they looked gray. I couldn't muster up enough motivation to put on make-up or put in my contacts that morning, so I hid behind my square glasses. I wasn't fond of dressing up, and I was lacking in the "church clothes" department anyway, so I wore a black cotton v-neck and an old pair of khakis. A far cry from everyone else's Sunday best.

I hid in the bathroom until I was sure the socializing was over, and then quietly made my way back down the hall, toward the sanctuary. As I was walking, I just so happened to look up and tear my eyes away from the slightly worn blue carpet beneath my feet.

There was a door at the end of my path, and as I approached it, I suddenly stopped and stared. Just beyond it, on the other side of the glass, my eyes took in the most beautiful day I'd ever seen. It was as though I had been traipsing through life with over-sized Jackie O sunglasses on, everything veiled by slight darkness, and someone magically removed them from my face in that instant. The sun was shining brilliantly, and the earth was a stunning concoction of vivid greens and blues. The wind was blowing through the trees, and leaves carelessly floated sideways across the world in slow-motion, hinting of the coming fall.

I was so overcome and blessed by the beauty before me that I stood there and cried. Right there in the hallway, by myself, while church was happening on the other side of the wall. And in that moment, I understood and felt something that no preacher could have ever told me or impressed upon me. I saw the world the way God meant for us to see it, as a beautiful gift of wonder, mystery, and love. Not only did I see it, I felt it too.

It took me a few minutes to walk away from that door, because I wanted to memorize what I saw and felt, to somehow frame it in my mind so I would never forget. When I regained my composure, I dried my eyes, went back to my seat, and unknowingly ignored the entire sermon as I wrote this on the back of the church bulletin. God works in mysterious ways.