On a Sunday, I stepped one foot from the stage to the floor. I could feel my shirt stuck to my back in one thick line of sweat where my bass’ strap crosses my spine. The heat in this place pours from the wall directly over our drummer’s head, cascades across his hi-hats and onto me. I can’t remember where my wife is sitting. I try not to open my eyes too much when I’m playing, and when I do, I try to keep eye contact limited to the other people on stage. Mostly, I throw my head back and sing along, but I always make sure there is no microphone nearby to pick up my voice, which is a flat, raspy, spirit-numbing drone. Someone pats my back as I walk town the aisle, looking like I know where I am going, but eyes squinting and sweeping left, right, left, right. I nod to acknowledge the pat just as I see her in the fifth row, on the right, one seat from the aisle. My seat. It occurs to me as I sit down that there is no way the person who patted my back could have seen my acknowledgement. I wonder who it was. There are four options, since I know it was on my left side.
My left hand alternates between spinning my wedding ring on my finger between the first knuckle of my left pinky and the tip of my thumb and squeezing my wife’s thigh just above the knee. My nerve endings are raw. That was not nearly as common before my daughter was born. Now it seems like I’m between a cheek tearing grin and sympathetic teardrop more often than not. And now, fingers still tingling from sliding up and down the neck of my worn-out Jazz Bass, the feeling is heightened.
The pastor steps up a foot onto the stage and starts to speak. I search by my feet for a pen, but ultimately risk the safety of my fingers and reach into my wife’s purse for a spare pen. Crayons, tissues, coupons, a container of Goldfish, tweezers, and finally, a pen. I scribble notes that I may or may not be able to read later and will ultimately find their way to that crack between my nightstand and bed. Some of the notes are to me, some are just notes on the message. Some are technical notes. “Slides be trans fstr. Read 1 Pe 1. Be holy.” On Wednesday afternoon, when I sit eating an early dinner of appetizers across a small table from the pastor, a lot of these things are sure to come up.
The sermon’s climax, for the second time this month, leaves me overwhelmed. Francis Chan talks about reverent intimacy. We talk about a God who IS love, but also is so awesome, as in inspiring of great awe, that it is scary, and we rightfully have fear and trepidation. His vastness and closeness are incredible. It is the most amazing feeling to start to understand it. It gives me chills and imparts an incredible urgency and yet also incredible calm. I self-consciously look around to see if there’s anyone else feeling the same way. I can’t tell. I never can. Prayer starts and I stand and watch to make sure the rest of the band is en route to the stage. I give my wife’s hand a warm and loving squeeze. We exchange eye contact for a second, and I resist the urge to stroke her cheek and kiss her with my right hand behind her head. Then I step up onto the stage, quietly make sure I’m in tune and softly pluck a chord. “And I cry Abba Father…”
I’m still thinking about writing my book on church planting from my perspective. I need someone to coach me on outlining a project like this. Anyone have any ideas? Anyone want to coach me/co-author/whatever? Seriously, let’s talk. I’m learning a lot of stuff in my classes that I’d like to apply, and I’d like to at least have an outline before it all fades from my brain, replaced by corporate flowcharts and the like.