I believe in a God who shows up everywhere, not just in churches. I believe that awkward things turned around have the whiff of God about them. I don’t know how all this works; if I did, the very fact of it being easily explainable would take away the mystery that makes it supernatural, beyond natural. But I do believe it, and here’s one experience of why:
I was recently at a wedding. One of the bridesmaids was all set to sing a sacred song as part of the church service. After various significant people did scripture readings, she handed her bouquet to another bridesmaid and went up a few steps to the lectern, where the microphone awaited. She began singing, and she had an incredible voice; that was immediately obvious. But before she’d sung just a few bars, her voice faltered, and she lost her way. She struggled valiantly to start again, with the piano player slowing down to allow her to slide back in. She couldn’t. She started and stopped several times, never getting out more than a few words before grinning, looking surprised, hanging her head a bit. It was hard to tell, halfway back in the church, exactly what was going on for her. Then it seemed that she was crying a little as she kept looking over at the bride and groom, obviously dear friends.
I closed my eyes and just waited, counting to 1,432,508 or some such big number (or so it seemed), because I almost cannot tolerate sitting through anyone feeling embarrassed or ashamed. I just wanted her to be able to return to her row of bridesmaids, but even that didn’t seem like enough cover. She’d still be up front and have to stand there with a smile plastered on her face, acting like she didn’t mind what had happened. When of course she probably did mind, for she really does have a fabulous voice, and she hadn’t really been able to use it other than, ultimately, to just speak the words of the final stanza along with the continuing piano player.
As she returned to her spot, the priest began to speak. He said something about how he’d told the bride and groom at the rehearsal that nobody’s wedding goes exactly as planned, that there’s always something unusual that makes it “the wedding where Uncle Harvey tripped” or some such mishap. He said that this would be the wedding where we remembered the beautiful singer who couldn’t keep singing, as she so ably had in rehearsal, because she was so overwhelmed with love for her two friends and with the poignancy of the moment, and what a beautiful gift her faltering actually was. I personally like it when we just name what IS instead of acting like something didn’t really happen, so I loved his commentary, and it reframed the situation, giving it a beautiful meaning. Yet still, I ached a little for her.
I spoke to her in the bathroom (where else, women?) at the reception. I said what a great voice she had. We talked briefly about her inability to sing the song as planned. She said she wasn’t exactly embarrassed, just more wishing she could have a do-over.
Well, an hour or so later after dinner, the band was really cranking out some song, and the dance floor was quite full. One of the guys in the band said, “Hey, you should come up here. You seem to know this song.” It wasn’t clear who he was pointing to. Several others almost went forward. But ultimately it was obvious that he was pointing to the same woman who had not been able to finish her song at the church. So she jumped up on stage. The band leader handed her a microphone, and she began belting out the song — which she did know quite well. She dominated that stage, full as it already was with three jewel-bedecked singers; she commanded the room.
And all of us on the dance floor began clapping and whooping and jumping up and down, practically in unison. We were WITH her; we were FOR her. We were even feeling relief OURSELVES for something we’d all experienced. It was one of those rare, perfect moments in life where nothing needed to be said, but it was pretty obvious that there was a common feeling of relief and joy.
Of course you could say it was just randomness, a mere coincidence, that propelled her to the stage to assuage her prior embarrassment, that gave her a moment to shine when she’d probably been tempted to feel shame before. And maybe that’s all it was. But from where I stood, right in the middle of the undulating crowd, screaming our heads off with her name repeated over and over, I’d say we were witnessing some sort of redemption. In fact one of my nearest and dearest, who isn’t prone to such pronouncements, whispered to me, “This is a moment of redemption.”
And that’s the God I believe in, one who shows up at great parties, with flowing wine, good food, and a great band from Charlottesville, and reaches down to our puny, earthly proceedings to see to it that one of his kids, a girl he loves (like he loves us all), gets another shot at the microphone, a chance for redemption.
That’s how I saw it, and I won’t forget it.